County Board Unanimously Approves Jail Reform Measure

May 22, 2015
County Board Chair Sharon Corrigan, 608.333.2285
County Board

Work Groups will address  racial disparity and mental health concerns; New contract will address immediate safety issues


The Dane County Board of Supervisors unanimously approved a sweeping measure to address ongoing concerns of racial disparities and inmate safety at the Dane County Jail.


“There are significant issues at the jail,” said County Board Chair Sharon Corrigan. “It’s deteriorating. Too many people with significant mental health issues spend too much time in solitary confinement. Safety is an issue. And we still lock up a disproportionate number of people of color. We need to identify the problems and fix them in a way that saves taxpayer money and keeps the public safe, and we need to do it soon. I look forward to working with the experts and community members on the work groups, and pledge to work hard to implement their recommendations.”


The resolution, which was introduced in February by Corrigan and Supervisors Leland Pan, Shelia Stubbs, Carousel Bayrd and Paul Rusk, forms three work groups: one to study inmates’ length of stay; one to study mental health issues facing inmates; and one to study alternatives to incarceration. Additionally, the resolution calls for the County to solicit new proposals to make improvements to the facility and address immediate safety concerns.


The work groups will be comprised of up to 11 members each, appointed by the Chair of the Public Protection and Judiciary Committee, in consultation with other supervisors. Each work group will be assigned a facilitator and staff support. The work groups will be named next month and issue recommendations in September.


“The justice system and the jail are right at the heart of the issue when it comes to racial disparities,” said Supervisor Stubbs. “We need to take a close look at every nook and cranny of the system and make sure we treat everyone fairly while keeping the public safe. I’m proud that the Board has approved this resolution and look forward to the workgroup recommendations.”


“The County Jail shouldn’t be a mental health facility, yet that’s what it has become,” said Supervisor Bayrd. “Too many people are locked up in solitary confinement for the crime of mental illness, and that must change. I’m grateful to my County Board colleagues for moving forward on a solution.”


“A lot has happened since we first introduced this idea earlier this year,” said Supervisor Pan. “It’s never been more clear that our criminal justice system has serious issues and needs immediate attention. This is an important first step, but only a first step. The real work will begin when the work groups issue their report this fall. I look forward to rolling up my sleeves alongside our hardworking county staff and addressing the issues in our jail.”


“This resolution shows, and its results will show, all that is good about County government,” said Supervisor Jeff Pertl, chair of the Personnel and Finance Committee. “The idea got a lot of attention and scrutiny, and a lot of people had their voices heard, and we crafted a big, broad piece of legislation that will have a real impact. I’m grateful for all the time, energy and effort that’s gone into this whole process, and I look forward to hearing what our experts, stakeholders and staff have to say about the next steps.”


“We are looking for individuals with experience within our criminal justice system who can help identify solutions and best practices that can be implemented to address our troubling racial disparities while enhancing mental health programs that leads to folks inappropriately being in the jail,” said Supervisor Paul Rusk, who serves as the chair of the Public Protection and Judiciary Committee.


Any person interested in serving on one of the work groups can apply by sending an email to  by June 5th, indicating how you think you can contribute and why this is important to you.  You may send a resume, or simply indicate your personal experiences. 


For additional information, call the County Board office at 266-5758 or view the resolution at:


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