Local News

County board approves $4.4 million for jail safety improvements

MADISON, Wis. - The Dane County Board has approved up to $4.4 million for safety improvements to the jail facility in downtown Madison, according to a release.

The plan, which was approved Thursday night, is meant to address immediate problems with solitary confinement cells, health needs and federal Prison Rape Elimination Act requirements while officials work on long-term solutions.

"Making interim health and safety improvements in the 1954 City-County Building Jail will help to keep our staff and inmates safer as we move toward a permanent solution that will add special needs beds, eliminate solitary confinement and create a modern facility that will provide the assistance inmates need to turn their lives around," supervisor Paul Rusk, chairman of the County Board's Public Protection and Judiciary Committee, said in the release.

The $4.4 million includes replacing old or faulty cell locks, new video surveillance cameras, window replacement, a smoke management system and boarding costs for inmates during construction, according to the release.

A consultant's report estimated it would cost more than $47 million to bring the 62-year-old facility up to current building code and safety standards, officials said.

According to the release, almost 80 suicide attempts have been made at the jail over the past year, and nearly all of those were inmates who used outdated cell bars as anchor points for hanging themselves.

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