There is much to stir outrage in Shut it Down, a recent story in Isthmus by Dylan Brogan.
Click on the link above and read it for yourself. Here are some of the facts and quotes that got my attention.
The article came about because a former inmate, Lisa Mitchell, contacted Brogan to tell him about a lawsuit she had filed claiming that the environmental conditions in the jail amount to “cruel and unusual punishment.”
Mitchell and other inmates report dangerous levels of lead in their drinking water, a ventilation system that is recirculating asbestos fibers throughout the jail, and drain flies that come up through the showers. Official reports substantiate their concerns.
Dane County Sheriff Dave Mahoney has called the facility “inhumane” and “dangerous,” despite the fact that he is named as a defendant in Mitchell’s lawsuit. Brogan quotes Mahoney as saying, “It needed to be replaced yesterday…Now is the time to quit talking about it. Quit studying it. And come up with a plan to replace the City County jail.”
Calls to replace the jail began more than a decade ago. Mahoney points out, “We have spent about $1.7 million in taxpayer dollars just on studies. All we have to show for it are three-ring binders full of paper.”
The Mead and Hunt consulting firm, authors of the most recent study, told the County Board of Supervisors, “We believe Dane County should not consider extending the life of the jail, but should work towards getting out of the building with due haste.” Last December, the firm proposed two options that both would require closing the jail.
County Executive Joe Parisi asked for more options in January because of the cost. Consultant fees for this new plan will cost $82,200. It is scheduled to be presented to the county’s Public Protection & Judiciary Committee on June 13.
Here is how Parisi describes the “true priorities” of the community and his reluctance to move ahead with the jail project.
“We can’t look at this jail project in a vacuum,” says Parisi. “Those capital dollars would be competing with what I believe are the true priorities of this community: Cleaning up our lakes. Providing affordable housing. Conservation of our natural resources. Road construction and rehabilitation.”
While we are constructing roads and conserving out natural resources, inmates of our county jail are drinking unsafe water and breathing air contaminated with asbestos.