Jail Overcrowding Leads To Disturbance

By: Zac Schultz
By: Zac Schultz

An argument over a card game escalated into a pushing match in a medium security pod in the Dane County Jail Saturday.

Captain Mike Plumer is the Dane County Jail Administrator. He says the lone deputy on duty called for support and the 4 jailers got the disruptive inmate on the ground. "When the other 40 inmates rushed around the deputies and started pushing towards them to get through them."

The jailers were able to restore order before any punches were thrown, but one deputy suffered a foot sprain.

The pods are designed for medium and low risk inmates. But some higher risk inmates get placed here due to overcrowding in the maximum security part of the jail. There were 45 inmates in the pod Saturday night.

"32 of them were maximum security inmates. So the majority were maximum security. And 9 of those were maximum security inmates with a history of institutional violence," says Plumer.

Captain Plumer says one deputy is assigned to watch each pod. The system only works when the inmates are low risk. "When you are outnumbered 10 to 1 you are totally at the mercy of those inmates."

Captain Plumer says he has the same staffing level as 1994, but he now has an extra 300 prisoners–many of them higher security. "The jail is definitely short staffed."

Captain Plumer says they've been requesting extra jailers since 1997, but yet again the Sheriff is being asked to cut his budget by 1.5%.

County Executive Kathleen Falk says every department is being asked to cut, and she points to a record of adding money to the Sheriff's budget in the last decade. "We've added almost 100 staff persons–mostly deputies– to the sheriff's department."

For now, attacks like this weekend are rare, but Captain Plumer fears they could grow more frequent. "I worry about it all the time."

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