The JAIL is going to BREAK Us.

Posted October 30th, 2017 @ 4:35 PM by

Tonight there will be a rally at the rally at the city – county board meeting at 4:30 PM to oppose the massive remodeling of the jail.  Before we show up let us take a couple steps back.

 Among the proposals in Dane County Executive Joe Parisi’s $538 million 2018 budget proposal is a $76 million plan to remodel the county’s jail. At a Dane County Board of Supervisors public comment meeting, that plan was mostly opposed, although supporters have said the plan resolves issues around jail safety while increasing programming.

Under the proposal, the county’s three jail facilities would be combined into one. The number of beds would be reduced by about 100, with $110,000 used for re-entry programming for inmates.

The outdated City-County Building jail, which has been called dangerous, would be closed, along with the work-release Ferris Center.

Current jail facilities also exist in the Downtown Public Safety Building, which would be remodeled to add four floors, with an increase in medical and mental health beds and an increase in jail programs.

In a state where we incarcerate more black males than anywhere else in the US , also:

  • Wisconsin was recently found in a widely-publicized study to be the WORST state in the U.S. to be Black.
  • Dane County has the WORST racial disparities in the country with regards to incarceration.
  • Incarceration does not decrease but rather INCREASES a person’s likelihood to engage in “criminal behavior.”

How does this affect us?  These are the people in our prisons:


20% – the minimum portion of people in the Dane County jail who don’t have housing

95% – portion of women the Sheriff puts in solitary confinement who are on the “mental health caseload”

78% – portion of men placed in solitary confinement who are on the “mental health caseload”

48%  – portion of people in jail who are Black

5%  – portion of people in Dane County who are Black

47% and 42% – the portions of single women and men, respectively, served by Dane County homeless shelters who are Black

76% – the portion of families served by Dane county homeless shelters who are Black

30-40% – portion of African American families who face poverty in Dane County

4% – portion of white families who face poverty in Dane County

14% – Black unemployment rate in Dane County

6 – number of times greater the likelihood of arrest for Black youth in Dane County as compared to white youth

But Wait There is more. let’s take a deeper look at the people in our prisons:

40% – estimated portion of people in the jail in 2016 who struggled with mental wellness challenges serious enough that they were taking psychotropic medications

20% – portion of people in the jail who have been REINCARCERATED NOT FOR A NEW CRIME but because of technical violations of their probation/parole/supervision conditions (aka “crimeless revocations”)

> 50% – portion of people who were arrested and booked into the jail for a FELONY who the court released later on signature bonds, indicating that they do NOT pose a threat to the community. (Note that this figure comes from the jail-planning consultants that the County hired.)

22% – portion of people in the jail on any given day who are incarcerated solely because of unpaid money bail

170 – number of people that the figure above (22%) translates to out of the…
280 – number people that need to be released in order to accommodate the same number of fewer cells that would be lost simply by closing the dated City-County Building cells. (There would be further details to work out, but these numbers – and how few people there are in the space discrepancy – illustrates the degree to which politicians are uninterested in anything but JAIL.)

Ok we have confirmed that imprisoning more and more people is a drain on our society and our pocketbooks!

So why so much emphasis on punishment and not so much on the root causes of why we have to continue filling our prisons?

The alternatives-to-incarceration approach emphasizes the need to fully fund community-based resources such as mental health care facilities (including treatment for addiction disorders), particularly crisis/restoration centers; affordable housing, particularly via a housing-first strategy; community restorative courts and community service and diversion programs, with support for alternative sentencing; bail and pretrial reform initiatives; and other efforts (e.g., SOAR, Community Treatment Alternatives [CTA]; deferred prosecution; TEAM) pioneered in Dane County and elsewhere in the country, and backed by civic groups and the County’s own 2015 workgroup recommendations.


Let’s put our very limited resources in programs and services that help to make sure that we do not need to stuff our prisons, instead lets make sure that we can add people into our productive part of our society and not into our prison pipeline.


Say NO to the new Jail! 




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