Walworth County officials look around for ideas on jail overcrowding
Overcrowding at the jail in the Walworth County Law Enforcement Center has officials looking for ways to tackle th problem. Space is available in unused portions of the Huber dorm, but security concerns make that option problematic.
Quick facts about the jail
The Walworth County Jail is divided into Huber dorms for inmates with work-release privileges, jail for those awaiting trial and jail for those who have been sentenced to serve time.
The Huber dorm has 321 beds. Fifty of them are not available because of a tight county budget that won’t allow Sheriff David Graves to hire 10 extra correctional officers needed to run the place. About 171 inmates will stay at the Huber dorm on a regular day.
ELKHORN Officials in Walworth County are looking at how nine other counties run their corrections programs to get ideas about how to solve the local problem of jail overcrowding.
The comparative study is the latest effort to avoid signing a multimillion-dollar check for a new jail. The current jail runs at an average of 80 percent capacity, but it sometimes overflows to a point where some inmates sleep on the floor.
“One of the things we’re trying to do is find any other programs or any other opportunities we can use within our existing operations,” Undersheriff Kurt Picknell said.
Counties included are Dodge, Eau Claire, Fond du Lac, Jefferson, La Crosse, Ozaukee, Rock, Sheboygan and Washington.
Assessing the jail’s future has been in the works since last December. Officials don’t expect a resolution until at least fall 2010. For now, they are evaluating all options to use current infrastructure to reduce stays and recidivism.
Most of the options likely will include staffing costs, Picknell said, but those costs would be a smaller investment than bricks and mortar.
The Walworth County Jail has 191 beds for inmates without work-release privileges. It was built 14 years ago on the edge of Elkhorn’s east side.
Among several, the options include improving education programs for inmates and creating a day reporting system. The latter would make inmates report daily to jail to ensure they are following the conditions of their bonds or sentences, but it would allow them to sleep at home.
Dan Kilkenny, vice chairman of the county board’s executive committee, said it’s important to keep in mind that inmates at the county jail are only there for a short time, with a maximum sentence of one year per charge.
“The county jail is not a place where you warehouse people, lock them up and throw away the key,” Kilkenny said. “We need to look at understanding they’re going to be back in the community fairly quickly and figure out what’s the most effective way to do this from a rehabilitation standpoint.”
David Weber, chairman of the executive committee, said some of the options on the table are doable, and some probably are not. For now, everything is an option, he added.
“We’re still in the discovery mode,” Weber said.