Dane County Officials Vote Against Raising Budget for Jail Renovation

MADISON, Wis. — Dane County is currently pursuing a $76 million proposal to modernize its current prison system, and some officials believe that will not be sufficient enough to fund the project. An additional $23.86 million to fund the second phase of the renovation was proposed Oct. 30 by Supervisor Mike Willett, District 32.

This proposal was made as a result of statements from officials at the Dane County Sheriff’s Office that have said the jail is in dangerous conditions, with declining building conditions as well as a lack of resources for inmates. Unfortunately, the proposal made in October didn’t pass the county Public Safety and Judiciary Committee — leaving the originally planned funding amount for the jail as is.

The extra $23.86 million that Willett proposed earlier this month would have funded additional changes — including relocating the Sheriff’s Office and renovating some areas of the prison building. The committee “needs to plan 20 years in the future” as well as to consider the possible future needs for more space, said Willett in a recent interview with The Daily Cardinal, a local news source. The $76 million for the updated Dane County Jail makes up 14 percent of the $537 million operating budget for 2018 that was proposed by Joe Parisi, executive of Dane County, earlier in October.

Some of the biggest changes proposed in the project’s most-recent, first-phase renovation plans would be the consolidation of prison facilities into a single downtown facility and a restructuring of prison policies. In addition, the renovations would combine three separate prison facilities into the Public Safety Building. Currently, the Dane County Jail also houses inmates at two other locations, the City-County Building downtown and the Ferris Center for Huber Inmates.

The plan would also eliminate solitary confinement for inmates, which is currently still in use at the existing jail and would reduce nearly 100 beds from the facility. This restructuring of the existing jail is, “the clearest demonstration that this project is being built based on need and a continuing confidence in the effectiveness of our rigorous jail diversion programs,” according to county officials in a recent statement. County officials will vote on the 2018 budget on Nov. 20.

Rachel Leber

Rachel Leber is a freelance writer at Emlen Media. She can be reached directly at rachel@emlenmedia.com.

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