Dane County Sheriff addresses concerns of jail conditions

Published: Oct. 4, 2021 at 7:34 PM CDT|Updated: Oct. 4, 2021 at 8:42 PM CDT
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DANE COUNTY, Wis. (WMTV) - As community members are sharing concerns about the conditions at the Dane County Jail, Sheriff Kalvin Barrett says he shares several over the same concerns.

NBC15 received a private tour of the facilities Monday. There are cell blocks in both the Public Safety Building (PSB) and City County Building (CCB). Those cells in the public safety building are 30 years old, the others were built in the 1980s and the 1950s.

However, that’s just the beginning of the list for Barrett and his staff.

“There is an overall concern for the conditions we have,” Barrett said.

Concerns with poor ventilation, malfunctioning toilets and routine cleanings are keeping maintenance staff busy.

However, Barrett said there’s a push for improvement beyond those problem.

“We’re about rehabilitation and providing resources and skills that our residents need to be successful when they get back into society,” Barrett said. “The fact is that 97% of those incarcerated right now in our facilities, are released back into our communities.”

Barrett said those resources lead to fewer repeats in criminal offenses.

There are plans to construct a $148 million, eight-story facility behind the PSB. It will reduce the number of beds by 20%, to about 922, replace the outdated cell blocks and increase space for medical needs, mental health and education.

“Those kinds of things we’re striving to get our residents involved in,” Sgt. RJ Lurquin with the Dane County Sheriff’s Office said.

Lurquin has been working at the Sheriff’s Office since 1990. He said these needs were not considered essential for jail residents in the 1950s.

“We obviously need these types of programs,” Lurquin said. “We just don’t have the space and the technology to handle those.”

“I do understand some concern about some feel putting money into our criminal justice system,” Barrett said. “Everyone has rights, our residents have rights, even though they may be limited to this facility, but they do have rights and we want to respect those rights.”

Sheriff Barrett said ground was supposed to break on the new facility in spring of 2022. However, that date will likely get pushed back because of the shortage of lumber and labor in construction right now.

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