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Sep 30, 201307:17 AMBlaska's Bring It!

with David Blaska

Has the climate changed enough to build more jail space?

(page 1 of 2)

In case of government shutdown, Blaska’s Bring It! blog will switch to emergency power; however, the blog will eschew polysyllabic verbiage, tours of the Stately Manor will be reduced to one-half hour on alternate Tuesdays (bring your own T.P.), and the indentured servants will be put on short rations.

Hell hath frozen over! After all the diversion programs, despite all the stop-gap measures, has Dane County government finally run out of touchy feely? Is the bin of pixie dust depleted?

Only 20 years after Dane County built its Public Safety Building, the sheriff is finding that this fast-growing county needs more jail space. The county executive is looking at $85 million to build more jail space — possibly as an add-on to the existing main structure on W. Doty Street. May we be allowed leave to say, just this one time, bold-faced and capital letters:

WE TOLD YOU SO!

We had all the population growth projections in 1992, when the Public Safety Building project was first green-lighted. Dane County was then, as it is now, the fastest-growing county (by absolute numbers) in the state. We would build the jail with three extra floors just roughed out for future expansion. The county executive at the time vetoed those floors out of the budget.

At the Public Safety Building’s dedication in the Spring of 1994, Rick Phelps, a standard issue liberal, gave one of the worst speeches since Jimmy Carter climbed into the cardigan. He actually apologized for building a jail; he said the county had failed by not solving the root causes of crime. I wanted to slap his face.

Fast forward to 2007; the county took delivery of a $140,000 study — not to determine long-term jail space needs but “to devise a shoehorn for the little old lady who lived in the shoe to reduce the pinch a little while longer,” as your scribe described it at the time.

That report recommended greater use of electronic bracelets and a host of complicated Band Aids, harder to describe and even harder to implement. Mainstream news accounts of the time mischaracterized the report, prepared by outside experts, as vindication that new jail space was not needed. To the contrary, the study’s authors were specifically directed not to examine jail expansion. The Institute for Law and Policy Planning apologized that "A ... study was requested to examine . . . how to obtain the most with currently available resources."

As I wrote in August 2007, that study — by design — “ignores state population projections that show Wisconsin's fastest-growing county will add 124,000 people in the next 25 years.” Already in 2007, our jail capacity per capita was 37% below the statewide average. In other words, we were under-jailed then and would become even more so as the county grew.

Those three additional floors would have cost $46 million, something Kathleen Falk, the county executive who wanted to be attorney general, then governor or perhaps chief park ranger, called “neither necessary nor affordable.” (For sheer policy blindness, please read her entire diatribe directed against my advocacy.)

Could I interest you in swampland?

In the meantime, the county spent several million dollars upgrading the antiquated jail space in the original city-county building, built in 1954. It was, perhaps, the most wasteful program in local county government history — unless one counts Falk’s swampland buying spree.

(Continued)

Old to new | New to old
Oct 1, 2013 06:48 am
 Posted by  Anonymous

nice post. it seems that certain people want to throw money at people who sit on their arse all day and do nothing. let me guess, this is their answer to stop crime and decrease homelessness. wake up. this is why crminals and homeless are migrating here. so whats the answer if no more jail space? some of these people are making excuses for where the problem really lies and blasting the local govt for not taking care of these lazy people, but have no good answer to how stop the flow of criminal and homeless immigration

Oct 1, 2013 10:49 am
 Posted by  uwbiz96

Guy I talked to at Copps the other day works two jobs, just got kicked off BadgerCare and is taking a break from school because the program that funded his financial aid is gone.

Anonymous, are you suggesting that people who accept public aid are lazy?

Oct 2, 2013 06:55 am
 Posted by  Anonymous

not at all. I am suggesting that some people who advoke for homeless criminals thinks its better to give these criminals money, in the name of helpful services when they break laws and have jie taxpayer pay for said criminal to leave on streets and shelters instead of locking them up when they commit crime. if your friend is law abiding is actually trying to work, unlike many of these dontwannaworksponge criminals, then i feel for him. my comment was aimed at people who complain where money goes but dont have better solutions than to give it to lazy arsed people who can work but choose not to because they know somebody else will take care of them

Oct 3, 2013 09:31 am
 Posted by  Anonymous

We throw people in jail for protesting, for selling drugs, driving drunk,stealing, committing murders, etc with the reason they were "breaking the law". Is anyone actually analyzing the situation on why these specific people are doing this? Is it a mental disease, needing cash, peer pressure, addictions,upbringing, etc. Can inmates end up influencing the person in a bad way? Would this person be better out of jail but with counseling, or placed in a different setting? How many are thrown in jail for say drunk driving or selling pot, later are arrested for more severe things like murder, selling heroin, etc. Don't forget Damon Terrell from solidarity Singers who was thrown in jail for 3 days and never charged. If he was a white, would they have arrested and thrown him in jail? How often are people wasting time in jail for no reason.

Often their are signs at a young age that a person is headed in the wrong direction. Many times it is children whose parents who are not consistant, or society uses the excuses, he is a boy, it is the age, etc. I have seen adults who will chuckle at their younger days of drinking, drug use, and bad behavior (violating laws and disrespect of others). If you had a 16 or 20 year old who made a stupid mistake, being in jail for say 8 years with murderers, will they come out realizing their mistake and lead a productive life, or will they come out different - and be influenced by thetougher powerful inmates and feel they have to leave that new image outside of the jail.

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About This Blog

Raised on a farm near Sun Prairie, David Blaska is a recovering liberal who spent 18 years in daily newspapers, including 12 at The Capital Times in Madison as a reporter and editor. He served Gov. Tommy Thompson as acting press secretary in 1998 and is a veteran and survivor of 19 years in state government. He served 12 years on the Dane County Board of Supervisors. From December 2007 to November 2011 he wrote the consistently popular "Blaska's Blog" for Isthmus online's "The Daily Page" until, he says, the intolerant liberals ran him off. He blogs from Madison.

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