One thought on “Jeremy Levin

  1. This is the message Jeremy Levin sent to me regarding the jail:

    “I support the $76 million proposal for the Dane County Jail renovations. I have talked extensively with Sup. Paul Rusk, who chairs the standing committee that oversees the jail, and some of greater detail on this issue below comes from those conversations. I agree with Sup. Rusk and trust his judgement on the jail, as he is a leader who focuses on the safety issues in our current facilities. I would also add that Sheriff Mahoney has also held a very progressive view for years on how the jail needs to better handle inmates with mental health needs.

    In 2015, we developed a workgroup in Dane County on “Investigating Solutions to Racial Disparities and Mental Health Challenges in the Dane County Jail and throughout Dane County’s Criminal Justice System.” The number one recommendation under mental health and solitary confinement was to “Remodel the current jail to reflect a more humane and modern facility.” Here is a link to the report: https://board.countyofdane.com/documents/pdf/556_whitepaper.pdf

    State law defines one of our responsibilities as a County is to provide a jail. I believe we have a responsibility to provide a safe, humane facility for those incarcerated there. The jail we have is antiquated and presents dangers for inmates and huge financial liabilities for the County. The proposal contained in the County Executive’s budget is for renovating the Public Safety Building to consolidate our jail facilities and close two of our current jails. The project will eliminate solitary confinement for inmates experiencing mental health emergencies and will create a new coordinated re-entry system to make sure those leaving the jail truly have an opportunity at a second chance.

    The remodeling of the current Public Safety Building into a centralized jail will have 91 fewer beds that the current jail now located in three locations. It is in no way an expansion of capacity. Even though Dane County has rapid population growth the jail system capacity will decrease. This reduction in capacity will continue the pressure on the District Attorney and judicial system (17 judges) to reform the system further to address the racial disparities issue here in Dane County. The Dane County board does not determine who is arrested and who goes out on bail, but we do have a responsibility to do something about the existing jail housing emergency. Currently we are housing inmates in terribly unsafe conditions and we have no special needs beds for those with health issues. On any given day we have about 40 inmates housed inappropriately in solitary confinement as the Sheriff has no alternative. The state-of-the-art renovation will add the special beds we need, plus add significant capacity to our programming space so we can help inmates have a regular life once they leave the jail.

    All taxpayers in Dane County are under a huge risk if we have loss of life due to a tragic situation at our current 1954 Alcatraz style jail, which is on the 6th and 7th floors on the City-County Building. There is no question there is significant risk of loss of life. A fire or tornado would be a disaster. In general we have about 80 suicide attempts every year. In a modern jail where inmates have regular contact with staff and other inmates, this risk will be reduced.

    In many ways the Dane County board has been leading the justice system reform effort that has taken place in recent years. We will continue to push for more diversion but there isn’t evidence that we can force the judicial system to divert more inmates as a significant number are already diverted, and the judges and DA believe those in jail, for the most part, belong there to protect public safety. This is also based on expert outside analysis from nationally recognized individuals who specialize in jail reform who have studied our system. We have no intention of reducing our reform efforts, including working to have more mental health opportunities in the community, but continuing to house inmates in inhumane conditions must end.

    Further, as the Chair of the Health and Human Needs Committee, my committee oversees the human services, which in includes mental health and AODA. I want to let you know that the county already covers the broad spectrum of services that would potentially be offered at a centralized Crisis Restoration Center (CRC) (an often mentioned solution) through contracts with different Purchase of Service agencies that provide the services. I don’t think a centralized CRC is that viable or a panacea to housing inmates, as I don’t think we have one POS agency that could do it all and when other larger outfits have explored coming into the community there has been push back.

    I hope this is helpful in understanding my point of view. Thanks again for your message.

    Sincerely,

    Jeremy

    Jeremy Levin
    Dane County Board Supervisor–District 10

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