Study wrong thing, get wrong answers.
The decades-long dithering over modernizing the county jail will never end if our elected leaders can’t rub two cogent thoughts together, never mind bricks and mortar.
The Public Safety Building opened for business in 1994, augmenting the old and outdated jail on the top two floors of the City-County Building. Within a few years, jail space was overcrowded and much of it, unsafe. Instead of acting, progressive Madison has been building its own Tower of Babble ever since.
The Dane County Board authorized a seven-story addition with 922 beds, then downscaled to 825 beds for $176 million. Thanks to Joe Biden’s inflation, the county ponied up an additional $16 million for the same plan. Now even that isn’t enough and County Exec Joe Parisi says he needs another $9.8 million.
But we’re making progress! The 37-member county board formed a Black Caucus. Another triumph of identity politics! We’ll have to wait for a taxpayers caucus or a public safety caucus, apparently. Anyhoo, the Black Caucus wants to cut jail capacity even more, lopping off the medical unit in the original plan.
They would send sick inmates — we refuse to call them “residents” as Sheriff Kalvin Barrett demands — to local hospitals. Guess what? Every sick inmate sent to a hospital is going to require three deputies, each doing an 8-hour shift, to babysit one-on-one in the hospital corridor. Sheriff candidate Anthony Hamilton reports county mounties already are short 58 due to “playing identity politics in hiring in order to satisfy progressive politicians’ political agenda.”
How about reducing crime?
The second example of fuzzy thinking is that, after 20 years of GPS ankle bracelets, deferred prosecution, signature bond, alternatives to incarceration, and restorative justice, Supv. Dana Pellebon vows to “work for criminal justice reform.” Says that magic wand will “very clearly reduce the jail population and reduce racial disparities.”
Racial disparities! Now we’re getting into CareBear fuzziness. The WI State Journal reports: “In their resolution, supervisors noted that studies have shown that high incarceration rates for black people is a key driver of the jail’s population.” Cites the money statistic (for progressives): 53% of the inmates are black in a county that is 6% black. That proves what? That Sheriff Kalvin Barrett and Madison Police Chief Shon Barnes are racist? No, the real question is:
Is inmate race disproportionate to the perpetrators of crime?
The federal Uniform Crime Reporting Program breaks down crime by race; latest numbers are from 2020. Could find no countywide data but was able to access numbers from 13 of the 19 police agencies, including the county sheriff. (Frustratingly, Sun Prairie, Middleton, Fitchburg, and three other municipalities do not report race.) Looked at violent crime only.
Results: 626 violent crimes committed by white people; 642 by black — or 51% of the total. (Not counting small numbers of Asian and “other”.) Is 51% that far off from 53%?
Blaska’s Bottom Line: Agree that too many black people are in jail — after 20+ years of progressive hegemony. Which is why Blaska has expended so much of his effort to get our public schools to instill the discipline lacking in the home.