December 21, 2016
Board Chair, Sharon Corrigan 608.333.2285
County Board

New report lays out costs for both new and renovated facilities


The Dane County Board is facing a tough decision on how to proceed on a new jail facility – even as it moves to reduce the total number of inmate beds.


A consultant’s report released Tuesday compared two options to remodel the existing Public Safety Building and replace beds from the outdated, unsafe 6th & 7th floor of the City County Building and the Ferris Center on Rimrock Road.


Renovating the existing Public Safety Building at 115 W. Doty St. by adding four floors or by expanding laterally is estimated at $150.8 million to $166.8 million.  An earlier report estimated the cost of a greenfield site at approximately $150 million to $165 million, excluding the cost of site acquisition.


Both projections are based on reducing the total number of inmate beds in the Dane County Justice System from the current 1,013 to 944. Those reductions would come from continuing all existing and recently implemented jail diversion efforts including bail affordability and non-violent offender programs.


The minimum-security Ferris Center at 2120 Rimrock Road would be closed under either scenario as the county moves to consolidate jail operations at one location.


“This is a first step in a process of examining the options to determine what will be best for Dane County over the long term,” said Supervisor Paul Rusk, Chair of the Public Safety Committee. “No matter what we do, the cost will be considerable, but we must have a safe jail that essentially eliminates the use of solitary confinement for those with mental health issues.”


Earlier this year, the Dane County Board approved spending up to $4.4 million on badly needed temporary repairs at its aging maximum security facility on the upper floors of the City-County Building (CCB). But those were only stop-gap measures designed to address immediate problems with solitary confinement cells, health needs and federal requirements.


Dane County Board Chair Sharon Corrigan said the renovation efforts will not address the problems.


“We need to fully analyze all the options but there is no question we need to replace the 6th and 7th floors in the CCB,” she said. “Those cells are not safe, they are not humane and they don’t comply with safety standards.”


The county jail facilities are currently spread across three separate buildings:


Maximum security cells are located on the 6th and 7th floors of the City-County Building (CCB) at 210 Martin Luther King Jr. Blvd.


The Public Safety Building at 115 W. Doty St. houses medium security prisoners and most administrative offices for the Dane County Sheriff’s Office. It is connected to the CCB via a tunnel running under South Carroll Street.


The William H. Ferris Center at 2120 Rimrock Road houses minimum security prisoners with work release privileges and administrative office for electronic release programs.


Sheriff Dave Mahoney has warned that the confusing layout and outdated equipment at the Dane County Jail complex pose threats to both staff and inmates. An earlier report in May said the county faced liability in the event of suicides, sexual assaults and fire.


Earlier reports estimated it would cost more than $47 million to bring the CCB floors up to current building code and safety standards and urged the county to abandon using the 62-year old facility as a jail “with due haste.”


After the Public Protection and Judiciary Committee has had the chance to fully digest the report, the committee will begin analysis and discussion of the recommendations.  As always, the committee will seek community involvement in the process.

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