Dane Co. sheriff stands alongside three predecessors in plea for new jail

Three former Dane County sheriffs are putting politics aside to support Sheriff Kalvin Barrett in his fight for a new and improved jail.
Published: Jan. 17, 2023 at 6:12 PM CST|Updated: Jan. 17, 2023 at 6:51 PM CST
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MADISON, Wis. (WMTV) - Three former Dane County sheriffs are putting politics aside to support Sheriff Kalvin Barrett in his fight for a new and improved jail.

Sheriff Barrett stood alongside former sheriff’s Gary Hamblin, David Mahoney and Rick Raemisch at a Tuesday press conference where the men urged the county board to hear their pleas ahead of their Thursday meeting. During the conference the four shared their experiences in the sheriff’s position, all of them claiming to have fought for a more modern facility during their term.

“We’ve been talking about this since I was sheriff in 2000, so for the last 23 years this county has been struggling with the idea that the need for a new facility and for 23 years they’ve kicked that can down the line hoping that somehow miraculously the need for a new facility will go away, it has not,” said former Dane County sheriff Gary Hamblin, who served from 1997 to 2007.

Former sheriff David Mahoney said while each of them served during very different times, they fought the same battle, and were not provided with necessary resources.

“If we want reforms that end the cycle of incarceration, we must provide programs that end reasons why people come into the criminal justice system. How are we forced to safely house those individuals with solitary confinement and isolation? Over 32 years, we have not been provided the resources to change the cycle.”

Thursday’s Dane County Board meeting will determine whether the project will be brought to the public for a vote.

Dane County Executive Joe Parisi explained in December that if dollars are not approved by the spring for the project, bidding on construction cannot proceed and will further delay the work, potentially increasing costs due to inflation.

In August, the Sheriff’s Office revealed its plan to begin transferring inmates to other counties as it shuts down the east section of facility on the seventh floor of the City County building. In the statement announcing the move, the Sheriff’s Office noted this section is the oldest portion of the jail. Describing his decision as a difficult one, Barrett attributed it to “a lack of safe and humane jail space, along with ongoing staffing shortages.”

In March, organizers shaved a floor off the original design and cut bedspace by a hundred after Parisi revealed the jail would cost more than expected.

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