Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Rock County Jail Reverses Overcrowding Problems

Some Inmates Receive Non-Traditional Sentences

Updated: 7:34 pm PDT March 23, 2010  Link

Overcrowding had been an issue at the Rock County Jail in recent years, but measures taken by the courts and the Rock County Sheriff's Office seem to have reversed the problem.In just four years, the county jail has gone from filling every inch of space to having space available.New programs are saving the county money, and housing fewer inmates could create revenue in the near future, WISC-TV reported.Until recently, it was rare to see empty beds in the Rock County Jail."

The overall population is down to levels we haven't seen in years," said Rock County Sheriff Robert Spoden.
About one in three people in custody of the Sheriff's Office have received non-traditional sentences. Officials said it's a complete change in philosophy."Three years ago, we were shipping people out of county. We were averaging anywhere between 60 to 70 people on a daily basis that we were housing in other counties. We had people sleeping on the floor," said Spoden.About 95 people are monitored by bracelets -- outside the jail."

The county jail should be for those people that are dangerous to the community. What we have found is, there are a lot of people who end up in our county jail that are there for driving offenses, petty misdemeanors," said Commander Tom Gehl, the jail's administrator.Other offenders participate in the Workender program, doing service projects on weekends."They're really, I believe, the future of corrections for low-risk offenders," said Spoden.Instead of shipping inmates to other facilities, Rock County is now considering renting some of its 100 available beds to other counties.

"Obviously, if we can bring in some revenue for the county, especially considering that Rock County has suffered a lot of economic setbacks, that's going to be good," said Spoden.Officials said it costs $12 a day to operate a bracelet to monitor an inmate. The county saves the $65 per day it would cost to house the inmate in jail.Officials say they will continue to monitor and track crime rates and trends to try to predict inmate populations in the future."What had been a crisis is now turning around where we have open beds and open cells," said Spoden.Dane County's jail is in the same situation.

It currently has about 100 fewer inmates in the jail than this time last year, WISC-TV reported.Officials said diversion programs there have been steady, but other steps to become more efficient, including monthly reviews with probation and parole staff, as well as the courts moving quicker on some hearings, have helped keep the population down.

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