Blaska Policy Werkes

Let’s experiment with public safety


Do you feel like Madison is safer today than 10 years ago?

Honey, I shrunk the jail

What have we been saying? The Blaska Policy Werkes bucked the Derail the Jail crowd last fall to support a more humane Dane County jail, one that offered mental health and AODA treatment. But we argued that they weren’t building it big enough.

Teddy Shibabaw of Socialist Alternative is driving county jail policy

The new and improved jail, to be built for $76 million atop the current Public Safety Building on Doty Street, will be smaller by 91 inmate beds than the current jail capacity, which is spread out over three locations. We testified before the County Board that Dane County is projected to add 75,000 residents in the next 22 years. That’s the state Department of Administration’s numbers, not ours. Dane County is the most rapidly growing county in the state but its jail is shrinking? Shots fired and car jackings are up but shrink the jail?

So kudos to Chris Rickert and the Wisconsin State Journal for committing some real journalism this week. Would that it had done so last fall when the jail was being considered but, given the liberal-progressive-socialists inhabiting the city-county building, doubtful it would have done any good. This is the money quote from that article (please pass the Maalox):

Now begins what is essentially an open-ended experiment to determine whether programs aimed at keeping people out of jail can be successful enough to even further lower — or at least not increase — the number of inmates in a county that already has lower-than-average jail-incarceration rates.

An “EXPERIMENT!” (Yes, we are shouting.) Dane County is already incarcerating lawbreakers at lower than average rates — lower than Milwaukee County, lower than the state as a whole, lower than the national average. By a long shot.

Dane County jails offenders at half the rate of Milwaukee County and only 60% of the nation as a whole.

How low can we go? How low DARE we go?

Buy your Tums by the caseload because here comes another dose of heartburn:

“There is no question that additional reform of the entire justice system will be needed to ensure that the smaller facility will be adequate,” says the chairman of the county’s law enforcement oversight committee. “The entire justice system” must be “REFORMED!”

“I’d be lying if I didn’t tell you I was concerned,” says the sheriff. 

Blaska would be lying to you if he said HE wasn’t concerned!

Dane County already has 28 — twenty-eight — programs to divert lawbreakers from doing jail time. Restorative justice, job training, community involvement, and (of course) ankle bracelets. Did not know the court system ran its own electronic monitoring — 130 offenders with beepers on their legs — in addition to 95 more the sheriff controls.

But that is not enough for the social justice warriors. Committing an offender to jail — a jail that will offer employment readiness training, mental health counseling, alcohol and drug abuse treatment, and medical services — isn’t that a good thing?

I’ll ask again, would Tony Terrell Robinson Jr. been alive today if he had spent a year in such a secure treatment facility?

The racial equity lens

Your Humble Bloggeur asked Sheriff Dave Mahoney why he had not sounded the alarm before the county adopted its jail budget last November.

Dave told me, “That quote and story does not tell the whole story of what was said.”

Sheriff Mahoney

I’m concerned that without the engagement of everyone in the criminal justice system doing their part, starting with arrest decisions and ending with sentences the 91-bed reduction could be a challenge but as was said in the story, our predictions based on patterns in incarceration should allow the 91 bed reduction for the next 5 to 15 years. Today [02-05-18] we are 123 beds below the 80% capacity of the jail. If everyone who has gone on record in support of diversion programs continues to support these programs we will be fine.

But head count on the night of December 11-12 was 914, according to Rickert. The new and improved jail will reduce capacity from 1,013 to 922. Not a lot of wiggle room. Understand that the Dane County Board told the Mead & Hunt consultants from the get-go, specifically NOT to plan more capacity.

What this is all about, Alfie, is race. The Dane County Board looks at everything through the Lens of Racial Equity. That’s not an opinion. That is official policy and in so many words. (The County’s Racial Disparities Study 2015)

The social justice warriors are distressed that, in the five years ending in 2015, 30% of inmates were black when that cohort comprises only 5% of the county population.

“Racial equity” … proponents view “disparate impact”—when the same policies yield different outcomes among demographic groups — as conclusive proof of discrimination.  — the Manhattan Institute’s City Journal.

Blaska expressed the hope that the county would adopt what jail consultants Mead & Hunt call Phase 2, which would bring the new jail to current capacity.

“That’s not going to happen,” Sheriff Mahoney responded.

Given the make-up of this county board and that only five of the 37 seats are being contested, he is undoubtedly correct. To recycle Donald Rumsfeld, you work with the county board you’ve got, not the one you wish you had.

From the archives:

For Further StudyMitch Henck is concerned. Oshkosh, Green Bay and Manitowoc jails are full.