Seal of Dane County County of Dane
County Executive's Office

County Board to Hear Options for Renovating Jail

June 14, 2017
County Board Chair, Sharon Corrigan - 608.333.2285
County Board

With a decision pending on renovation of the jail, the Dane County Board on Thursday will discuss a plan that reduces the number of inmate beds by nearly 10 percent while cutting construction costs by half from earlier proposals.


The new proposal from consultant Mead & Hunt says the county jail facilities could be consolidated and upgraded for $75.2 million – far less than more comprehensive plans estimated at $152.1 million to $164.5 million.


Cost savings are realized by forgoing some space for programming, youthful inmate housing and in-person visitation included in previous plans. Unveiled last week, the new proposal also delays relocation of the Sheriff’s Department office and makes that a separate $23.9 million project.


“This new proposal meets many of our goals,” said County Board chair Sharon Corrigan of Middleton. “It replaces the outdated and unsafe 6th and 7th floors of the current jail, consolidates operations at one site and makes us compliant with federal laws regarding youthful offenders and the Prison Rape Elimination Act (PREA). It also eliminates use of solitary confinement for those suffering from mental illness.”


The Dane County Board will hear a presentation on jail options  at a special 6 p.m. session prior to the regular 7 p.m. meeting in Room 201 of the City-County Building in downtown Madison. Final approval would come at a later date.


Officials for a decade have talked about the need for a new facility to replace the current jail built in the 1950s. But progress has been slow due to cost concerns and broader questions over the reach of the criminal justice system.


Supervisor Paul Rusk of Madison, chairman of the County Board’s Public Protection and Judiciary Committee, is optimistic the new plan could gain approval this year with construction beginning in 2019. He is particularly pleased with plans to reduce the total number of inmate beds from the current 1,013 to 916.


"It is unprecedented that a county with rapid population growth is actually planning for a smaller jail,” said Rusk. “This is largely due to our diversion and mental health programs already in place.   A smaller jail keeps the pressure on all parts of the criminal justice system to implement additional reform measures."


Like the more expensive proposals, the new plan would consolidate jail operations at the Public Safety Building in downtown Madison by closing the jail in the City-County Building and the Ferris Center for work-release inmates on Rimrock Road. It also adds four floors to the Public Safety Building but saves money by not expanding into an adjacent parking lot as the earlier plans did.


The new plan still includes space for youthful inmates from Dane County but not additional space for young offenders from other locations.  it also eliminates in-person visitation space with at-home visitation using Skype-like technology.


Also Thursday the Dane County Board will:

  • Consider establishing a PACE program to boost private sector clean energy development. PACE –property assessed clean energy – enables property owners to obtain low-cost, long-term loans for energy-efficiency, renewable energy and water conservation improvements.

  • Recognize June 15, 2017 as World Elder Abuse Awareness Day in Dane County. Every year, more than two million disabled and elderly citizens are victims of physical, emotional, sexual abuse and neglect and financial exploitation. Dane County in 2016 had 359 reports of elder abuse, according to officials.

  • Consider an $100,000 agreement with the Ice Age Trail Alliance to develop parking, trail segments and signage on lands permanently protected for the Ice Age Trail. Any unexpended funds would be carried forward to 2018.