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Monday, January 24, 2022

Deputies intervene in suicide attempt at Dane County jail facility, the fifth attempt this year

Deputies at the Dane County Jail facility located in the City-County Building intervened in an unnamed inmate’s suicide attempt — the fifth such incident to take place in 2021.

Deputies responded to the suicide attempt by a 31-year-old male inmate at approximately 4:15 p.m. this past Tuesday. The inmate was found with a ligature tied around his neck when they arrived.

According to Lt. Chris Larsh of the Dane County Sheriff’s office, deputies administered medical care until the inmate could be transported to a local hospital. Upon the inmates recovery, Larsh anticipates the individual will be returned to jail and placed on suicide watch.

“The resident never lost consciousness,” Larsh said in a press release. “Madison Fire and EMS responded to assist and transport him to a local hospital for further treatment. After receiving the requisite medical treatment, he will return to the jail and be monitored under suicide precaution protocol.”

The inmate has been housed in the City-County Building since mid-October, according to a statement released by the Dane County Sheriff’s Office. 

The incident occurred amidst plans to construct a new jail tower that proponents believe will be more humane. According to the Dane County Sheriff’s Office, the new jail will help prevent similar incidents in the future. 

“This is the 5th suicide attempt in 2021 at the CCB jail,” the Sheriff’s Office tweeted. “A risk which could be greatly reduced in a more modern facility.”

The County Board approved the construction of a new jail tower in 2017 to replace the two facilities located at the City-County Building and the Ferris-Huber Center, both of which were constructed in the 1950s.

According to Sheriff Kalvin Barrett, the new tower will better serve the needs of inmates by providing them a safer environment that promotes rehabilitation so that residents can reintegrate into society. 

“There is an overall concern for the conditions we have,” Barrett said. “We’re about rehabilitation and providing resources and skills that our residents need to be successful when they get back into society.”

Sgt. RJ Lurquin of the Sheriff’s Office and some County Board members have expressed concerns about the facilities’ poor ventilation and outdated cell blocks. According to Lurquin, once completed the new facility provide more resources for medical care, mental health treatment and education than the current facilities have the capacity to provide.

“We obviously need these types of programs,” Lurquin said. “We just don’t have the space and the technology to handle those.”

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An analysis provided by the JFA Institute concluded that the cost of completing the new jail facility is likely to exceed the allotted budget approved by the County Board by $22 million, causing some public officials to critique the project. 

“I definitely think that we should not be putting more money into this project,” said District Supervisor Elena Haasl. “I think that money could have been better spent elsewhere. I think that we need to invest in more community-based solutions and solutions that don’t further criminalize, impoverish and re-traumatize people.”

An additional $23 million in funding for the jail has since been proposed in the 2023 county budget, but has yet to be approved.

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