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Dane County Officials Plan Jail System Changes, With Eye Toward Race, Mental Health

Plan Includes Alternative Sentencing, Separate Mental Health Facility

BobbbyLight (CC-BY)

The Dane County Board is working on a plan to reduce racial disparity in the county jail and create a new facility for offenders with mental health problems.

The plan addresses many of the demands made by the group Young, Gifted and Black, which has been holding street demonstrations in Madison calling for jail reform.

The plan calls for increasing the use of treatment courts and diversion programs to keep low-level offenders out of jail. County Supervisor Carousel Bayrd said the plan also includes building a mental health treatment center.

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“So many times police officers come across an individual with a mental health struggle and have no option but to take that individual to jail or walk away,” Bayrd said. “Our proposal aims to work with the community to develop a separate facility so that there is an option between walking away or incarcerating the person in jail.”

A public hearing on the plan is scheduled for next Tuesday.

Ultimately the county plans to create working groups that will develop a series of proposals for expanding treatment and diversion programs, building the mental health facility, and eliminating or greatly reducing the use of solitary confinement cells.

There will also be an effort to reduce the length of time prisoners are held in jail, especially those who are being held for violating probation or parole violations.