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‘Mr. Racine’ admits mistake after inmate escape

‘Mr. Racine’ admits mistake after inmate escape

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RACINE COUNTY – Mark Eickhorst, host of a local weekend morning radio show where he’s known as “Mr. Racine,” learned a hard lesson earlier this month when he was working as a supervisor for county inmates on work release. Eickhorst has previously served as both Racine city alderman and a spokesman for city government.

Eickhorst is the supervisor who drove inmate Erick T. Blakney to his ex-girlfriend’s house when he was on work release, Eickhorst and county corporation counsel Jonathan Lehman confirmed. While at the woman’s house, Blakney allegedly beat up the woman.

Blakney has since been charged with escape, misdemeanor battery and criminal damage to property, and Eickhorst has lost his job.

Eickhorst, who started working for the county as a work release supervisor in April, openly admits he made a mistake. But at the time he thought he was doing the Christian thing, he said.

While working with the inmates, Eickhorst said he would sometimes let them use his cellphone during breaks and let relatives bring inmates food or a change of clothes.

In early September, Eickhorst said Blakney told him that the woman, with whom he has four children, had recently learned she has some brain tumors and was thinking about killing herself. The next day, Sept. 5, after using Eickhorst’s phone, the man told Eickhorst that after multiple attempts he couldn’t reach the woman and he was worried, Eickhorst said.

“I actually pictured the lady laying there dead or dying with four kids in the apartment,” said Eickhorst, who was an alderman in the late 1990s. He then agreed to drive the inmate to the woman’s home, Eickhorst said. He said he waited in the work truck with the three other inmates. But during that time, the inmate allegedly beat up the woman, punching her and covering her mouth when she started to scream, according to a criminal complaint.

“I honestly asked myself before I let him do that what would Jesus do? … I thought I was doing the Christian thing,” Eickhorst said. “Unfortunately (the inmate) was lying to me.”

Eickhorst has since been fired from his job as an inmate supervisor, according to County Executive Jim Ladwig.

“I think he is a nice guy who made a bad decision,” Ladwig said.

In addition, Eickhorst had been a volunteer bible study leader in the jail for several years and he has since lost that position. 

“It was a mistake,” Eickhorst said. “I deserve what I got. I feel sorry for the lady who was injured and I feel very badly about the entire situation.”

Racine County Sheriff Christopher Schmaling said although Eickhorst’s involvement was foolish and incomprehensible, it did not reach the level of a crime.

Schmaling also said there is no reason inmates should have been using Eickhorst’s cellphone or receiving food or other items from relatives while on work release.

Eickhorst, known as “Mr. Racine” on WRJN (1400 AM), hosts a Saturday and Sunday morning show called “It’s All About Racine,” which airs from 10 a.m. to noon.

Chris Moreau, the station’s general manager, said: “As far as I know, Mark hasn’t been charged with anything and that doesn’t affect his position with the radio station.”

Moreau said Eickhorst was forthcoming about the situation with the station and didn’t try to hide anything.

“He has worked here well over a decade,” Moreau said. “He is an honest, hardworking guy and I still think he represents the city and the station really well.”

Correction: Mark Eickhorst’s involvement in the Racine County Jail’s chaplaincy program was misstated in this article. The error has been corrected.


The future of the county’s inmate work release program

Racine County Sheriff Christopher Schmaling said he plans for the county’s inmate work release program, including median mowing, to continue.

The county is working toward getting someone new to come in to fill the inmate supervisor job Mark Eickhorst previously held. Schmaling said he fully expects that position will again be filled by a civilian hired through an outside agency, rather than a deputy on the county payroll.

The person will be paid an hourly stipend. Schmaling said it would not be cost effective for a deputy to supervise the inmates on work release. Secondly, Schmaling noted the criteria the county uses to select what inmates go out on work release. Many have already been given Huber privileges by a judge so if it wasn’t for the fact they don’t have a job, they would be out in the community anyway, unsupervised.

 

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