Dane County Jail Consolidation Budget Debate Continues, New Idea Proposed

Madison, Wis. — As two proposals for the Dane County Jail Consolidation Project progress through the committee process, a county leader asks the sheriff and board to consider a third option that would keep the project within bounds from the budget.

In a letter to Sheriff Kalvin Barrett, Dane Co. Board of Supervisors Chairwoman Analise Eicher said their paths were limited if the sheriff’s office didn’t budge on its initial proposal — calling for a reality check.

“Everything so far indicates that this project as currently designed will not be under budget, even this change order will likely not be under budget,” Eicher said.

The initial proposal, Resolution 320, would close the City-County Building and Ferris Center and build a new seven-story facility behind the Public Safety Building in downtown Madison with 922 beds.

That plan, however, is currently $24 million over budget, a cost overrun that the sheriff’s office attributes to rising construction costs caused by the pandemic.

RELATED: ‘Inhumane, Bordering on Unconstitutionality’: Dane Co. Sheriff Evaluates Costly Alternative as New Jail Plans Progress

Eicher wants Sheriff Barrett and others involved in the project to consider building a four-story tower with minimal PSB renovations in a bid to cut costs.

“Looking at how a number of these things are going legislatively and knowing that we still have this goal of providing a safe facility,” she explained.

Eicher’s unofficial plan would still shut down the very outdated building, but Sheriff Barrett said there wasn’t enough information available about the new idea and he wasn’t ready to drop the proposal. initial.

“I will fight for an establishment that offers them humanity with dignity and respect and the opportunity to rehabilitate,” he said. “Until there is additional information that sends us in a different direction, I will continue with more than 10 years of study.”

Sheriff Barrett also added that he has no plans to fill 922 beds, but the extra space allows them to manage jail residents more humanely and move them based on gender and behavior. .

Eicher, meanwhile, is considering other avenues around reform to manage the prison population like the Crisis Triage Center and the Madison CARES program — both aimed at diversion, which she says should reduce the prison population.

Sheriff Barrett said these reforms take time and any delay only prolongs the suffering of those using facilities he considers inhumane and borderline unconstitutional.

“We are all one bad decision away from being incarcerated,” he said. “People make mistakes, and those mistakes don’t define who they are or who they’re going to be in the future.”

There is another official option the council is considering: Resolution 319, a collaboration between Public Works and the Sheriff’s Office to bring the project closer to the approved budget of $150 million over 6 floors and 794 beds, with the possibility of expansion to the future.

RES-320 and RES-319 will then be considered by the Personnel and Finance Committee, and depending on the action there, they could make it to county supervisors.

If they cannot reach an agreement, they could choose to leave the decision to the public via a referendum in November.

A more accurate outline of the budget for both resolutions will be available with 95% cost estimates in August, which is also the referendum deadline.