Study supports need for jail improvements
A study of the Kewaunee County Jail recently completed by the National Institute of Corrections recommends that the county either build a new jail or repurpose its existing jail to better serve its jail population and avoid possible future litigation.
The purpose of the study was to determine the need for improvements to the existing jail, which was opened in 1968 with a capacity of 22 inmates, and to determine the need for improvements to the overall justice system in the county..
The study revealed several important trends in Kewaunee County that affect the jail and the justice system.
Kewaunee County’s median household income of $53,023 is slightly above the statewide average of $52,738 in 2014. The county’s poverty rate of 10 percent is also below the statewide average of 13.3 percent. The number of arrests actually declined between 2005 when there were 1,485, to 2014 when 1,287 arrests were reported.
But the average daily jail population has increased from 31.3 in 2005 to 33.43 in 2014. The total number of days that inmates spent in jail was at a ten-year high of 13,738 in 2014 compared to 12,002 in 2005. The average length of jail stay has increased 66.67 percent from six days in 2005 to 10 days in 2014, and jail admissions on average over the last decade have increased 18 percent from 367 in 2005 to 436 in 2014.
“While the number of arrests has gone down, the increase in jail admissions is attributed to the number of people on probation and their subsequent return to jail due to violations of their probation restrictions,” said Sheriff Matt Joski.
The average daily population of the jail is expected to grow from 28 in 2015 to 30.7 in 2020, while bed needs are expected to increase from 35 in 2015 to 38 in 2020.
The sheriff has employed alternatives to crowding the jail by housing inmates out of county or releasing inmates with electronic monitoring, the study found.
The National Institute of Corrections made several recommendations based on the study. While it noted that the jail facility is generally in sound physical condition and has been well maintained with a focus on cleanliness and organization, there is no program space that supports addressing inmate needs, such as substance abuse and education, necessary for successful community reentry.
The study also found that there is no recreation space for inmates to exercise.
“Outdoor recreation, indoor recreation and even space in the day rooms for recreation activities is essential for effective behavior management,” according to the study.
The jail design also limits opportunities for active supervision of the inmate population, the study found. The housing units are relatively small for adaptation to direct supervision without substantial increases in staff or modification to units to allow staff to manage more than one unit at a time.
As a result, the lack of recreation space, program space and the inability of staff to effectively supervise inmates make the county jail vulnerable to litigation, according to the study.
“Although courts typically consider the totality of the jail conditions in determining whether crowdng impacts conditions of confinement, it would be difficult for Kewaunee County to defend against such litigation,” the report said.
The National Institute of Corrections recommended that the county establish a criminal justice coordinating council and that key officials of the Kewauanee County justice system and county government continue discussions to determine the need for a new jail and/or repurposing the existing facility to address current and future incarceration needs.
Joski said the county planned to the create the council after new Circuit Court Judge Keith Mehn takes his seat in late July.
This article originally appeared on Green Bay Press Gazette: Study supports need for jail improvements