Sheriff Barrett’s Statement on Resolution 136
The introduction of Resolution 136 attempts to address the racial disparities found in the Dane County Jail through a commitment to reform and decreased incarceration. While the goals of the resolution are honorable, it does not accomplish the goal of closing the unsafe and inhumane City County Building (CCB) Jail.
The Dane County Jail Consolidation Project continuously studied for years and subject to resolutions that have reduced the bed capacity (from 1013 to 922 to 825) faces yet another bed count reduction resolution. The reduction of bed count to 725 is not supported by any jail population forecasts and is in fact contrary to our current climbing jail population. There is no evidence to indicate we will be able to close the CCB Jail at the completion of the proposed 725 bed facility. Resolution 136 ultimately extends the life of the CCB Jail.
Resolution 136 proposes reducing the bed capacity to incentivize stakeholders to implement justice reforms. There is no evidence to indicate stakeholders will be incentivized to implement justice reforms under the threat of building an unsafe overcapacity jail. An overcapacity jail does nothing to “reduce the current racial inequity in our jail” but instead furthers those inequities through housing residents in an unsafe and inhumane jail (overcrowding or keeping the CCB Jail open).
Delays completing this project are adding to the climbing costs. The stalling of Resolution 320 has already increased the cost of the project by millions and if Resolution 136 is passed, could cost the project more as its savings and costs are unknown. The unknown costs of resolution 136 risks pushing the project further over budget and delays the closing of the CCB.
The National Institute of Corrections Jail Planning Guide notes that “planning often begins with a crisis.” The CCB Jail was recognized as a crisis years ago resulting in a needs assessment, program development, project definition, and an implementation plan. It also notes that the best planning starts long before the jail is overflowing. Resolutions 136 not only ignores the CCB Jail crisis (extends its life) but it also intentionally plans to create another crisis (overflowing jail).
As the Dane County Sheriff, I have a sworn duty to take charge and custody of the jail maintained by the county and the persons in the jail. This can only be accomplished by maintaining a safe, secure, and humane facility. I will not jeopardize the safety of staff, residents, contracted employees, and visitors in an overcapacity facility or through the continued use of the CCB Jail.
I am dedicated to working closely with the Black Caucus, Dane County Board and all other Dane County criminal justice stakeholders to implement policies and practices that eliminate racial disparities. We must all work in a collaborative effort to find practical and sustainable solutions. Coercive strategies proposed in Resolution 136 are ineffective and will continue to jeopardize the safety and security of everyone, including, black residents, black deputies, black professional staff, and black volunteers in the Dane County Jail.
It is for all the above reasons I cannot support Resolution 136.