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Monday, May 20, 2024
A Dane County Jail inmate attempted suicide Thursday, making him at least the eighth to do so since August.

A Dane County Jail inmate attempted suicide Thursday, making him at least the eighth to do so since August.

New Dane County Jail to begin construction later this month

The new building aims to provide enhanced rehabilitation services to inmates, the Dane County Sheriff’s Office said.

Dane County will begin construction on a new jail building later this month to replace the current City-County Building Jail.

According to a March 13 press release from Dane County Public Information Officer Elise Schaffer, the new facility will “provide appropriate medical and mental health space” for inmates while “significantly reducing solitary confinement.”

The $207 million building will be the most expensive project in county history and comes after delays and years of advocacy from Dane County Sheriff Kalvin Barrett.

Individuals who suffer from mental illness are currently overrepresented in solitary confinement, despite the punishment increasing the chances of death after release, according to the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI). 

NAMI has also reported that psychiatrists have observed that being in solitary confinement can exacerbate pre-existing mental illness or cause it in inmates without a prior history.

“The newer facility will be a big upgrade from the 1950s-style jail in the [City-County Building] that it will be replacing,” Schaffer told The Daily Cardinal. “The new facility will include medical and mental health beds, something that we don’t have now.”

According to Human Rights Watch, an international non-governmental organization, a lack of mental health treatment in American prisons has led to prisoners suffering from mental illness not being able to address their issues, harming the overall health of the community after they are released.

Rehabilitation is a large focus of the design of the new facility, according to Dane County Executive Joe Parisi, who emphasized the importance of having a “safe and secure jail facility that provides opportunities for rehabilitation for incarcerated individuals.” 

“When complete, this facility will end solitary confinement for people experiencing a mental health crisis and help close the much outdated and unsafe City-County Building jail location,” Parisi said at the facility’s groundbreaking ceremony. 

The construction is part of the Jail Consolidation Project, which seeks to reform Dane County’s prison system to be more in line with the direct supervision philosophy, placing deputies in the same housing units as inmates.

In addition to implementing this philosophy, Schaffer touted an “increase in programming space” as a feature of the new building. 

The Dane County Jail’s substance abuse recovery program was recently credited with aiding thousands of inmates in 2023.

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“Our ability to provide treatment and programming for incarcerated individuals will undoubtedly have a positive impact on our criminal justice system and our community as a whole,” Barrett said at the groundbreaking ceremony.

The Dane County Sheriff’s Office anticipates construction will be completed in 2026.

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