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The Daily Cardinal Est. 1892
Saturday, March 02, 2024
Under the current budget proposal, prison facilities at the City-County building downtown would be closed. 

Under the current budget proposal, prison facilities at the City-County building downtown would be closed. 

Dane County finance committee rejects proposal for jail consolidation, cost decrease

The Dane County finance committee rejected an alternate, lower-cost plan for the Dane County jail consolidation project during a meeting Monday night. Cutting costs from the $150 million budget — with expected costs now amounting $170 million — may prevent the execution of select renovations.

“The board’s Personnel and Finance Committee voted to indefinitely postpone the measure that would have spent nearly $585,000 for an engineering firm to redesign the jail along a narrowed version of the project presented by officials last month,” the Wisconsin State Journal reported, noting that likelihood of reexamination is slim.

The Dane County Sheriff’s Office estimated the project will be completed in 2024 and emphasized the addition of a “South Tower” to the Public Safety Building. Renovations will reduce the total number of beds by 91 and consolidate three existing facilities into one, according to the project objectives summary.

“The design team is working to implement as much natural light and open spaces into the project as possible and to add biophilic design elements and the use of color theory to bring nature into the building,”the Dane County Sheriff’s Office said in a public statement. “The use of normalized furniture, fixtures and finishes as much as possible to make the facility less institutional is also a core goal of the design.” 

According to the sheriff’s office, the South Tower project will update City-County Building Jail cell blocks, supply space for medical and mental health practices, minimize solitary confinement and allow housing unit visitation, among other goals.. The Sheriff’s Office mentioned “direct supervision of residents by deputy sheriffs in the housing units” as a priority of the incoming South Tower.

In the past year, the sheriff’s office has expressed concerns that the current jail facilities are unsafe for inmates, with there being five attempted suicides at the Dane County jail located in the City County building in 2021. 

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

The Personnel and Finance Committee voted on a recommendation to authorize “borrowing to increase funding for the Dane County jail consolidation project,” as well. The 3-3 vote resulted in motion failure, presently preventing an additional $24 million in funding. Despite the failure, the item will be forwarded to the Dane County Board of Supervisors to be voted on.

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