We welcome in 2017 with an optimism that Dane County will continue to serve our residents in an inclusive and respectful manner, building community engagement and values.
Specifically, the County Board will be working to make long-term improvements to the Dane County jail. Last year, Dane County made short-term repairs to address the immediate life and safety issues in our jail facilities, including fire safety measures, lock improvements, and electrical system repairs. This year we will analyze options to address the long-term safety and viability issues for the jail.
As a reminder, the Dane County Jail currently includes the downtown Public Safety Building, the 6-7th floors of the City-County Building, as well as the Huber work release facility near the Alliant Energy Center. The top two floors of City-County Building, which date back to 1954, face significant safety issues and house both maximum security inmates and those struggling with mental health issues.
In 2015, the County Board rejected expensive proposals to building a new jail, instead opting to implement short-term repairs and explore renovation/expansion of the Public Safety Building downtown. A report, recently commissioned by the board includes:
A central component of the County’s long-term corrections reform strategy includes reducing racial disparities, providing alternatives to incarceration (including restorative justice programs as well as veterans and mental health courts), reforming bail, and expedited booking. These efforts contribute to a slightly lower projection of number of inmates over time, which is promising considering the anticipated growth in Dane County over the next decade.
We note, however, that black inmates are still very disproportionately represented in the jail (38% of the jail population) and black inmates are held for significantly longer (over 30% longer). So there is a lot more work to do.
The report offers two long-term recommendations for replacing the outdated, unsafe space on the 6 & 7th floors of the City County Building by expanding the existing downtown Public Safety Building either by (1) vertically add four floors or (2) horizontally expanding the footprint. Both strategies are outlined in two phases and would cost between $120-135 million.
This continues to be a costly and challenging issue. Please review the report and let us know what you think – you can contact us directly at firstname.lastname@example.org or Schmidt.email@example.com.
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