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Human Trafficking and the Dane County Jail

On January 24th, the Dane County Committee on Public Protection & the Judiciary and the Dane County Commission on Sensitive Crimes, jointly heard presentations and public comment on the matter of human trafficking—primarily sex trafficking. You can watch those proceedings here:

At 5:30pm tomorrow, Tuesday, February 28th, the Committee on Public Protection & Judiciary Committee will discuss what they heard last month, presumably to begin forging a path forward in order to combat the problem. Any member of the public again has an opportunity to offer comment on this topic.

The committee will also be voting on three spending resolutions related to the housing of Dane County prisoners. For reasons discussed below, the spending resolutions relate to the issue of trafficking and whether it will be effectively confronted here.

We realize it’s last minute, but we would strongly encourage you to attend tomorrow’s meeting, not least because human trafficking is already profoundly affecting both families and neighbors in our community. Left unattended, the problem will only deepen. Share information that you possess, learn more about what’s going on, and consider what might be done.

Human Trafficking Is a Major Problem in Dane County

Over the last 12 years, people have noticed crime increasing in neighborhoods all over Dane County—in every one of our cities and villages. We hear and talk about the growing number of thefts, car-jackings, smash-n-grabs, shootings, and assaults. The sensitive crimes, though…? Those are the ones people haven’t discussed much—even in hushed tones—until now. The heinous crime of human trafficking? Most of us figured that stuff happened somewhere else. The truth is, such trafficking has become a huge problem in Dane County and all over Wisconsin. Moreover, it’s increasingly occurring not just in big cities but where most of us might least expect it—in small cities and villages. Trafficking, it turns out, happens wherever demand exists and victims can be supplied.

However, there are additional, related reasons to attend tomorrow's meeting...

Dane County Can’t House Its Own Criminals

While we desperately need to understand the human trafficking issue here in Dane County, related factors likewise require our insight and attention if we’re going to stop trafficking effectively. We need a place to put the traffickers and other criminals once they’re arrested and charged.

Right now, Dane County is incredibly challenged in this regard. The county’s population has grown since the last jail was built. Dane County residents now number well over 500,000 people. With increased population has come more crime, more arrests, more individuals charged. Those who present a risk of violence, in particular, must be incarcerated in order to protect the public—not least, human traffickers.

But we’re out of jail space. What’s more the jail has deteriorated to such an extent that it is now unsafe for staff and inmates alike. The building desperately needs to be replaced.

Instead of working to resolve this problem, the majority of Dane County Supervisors are playing politics. Proposed jail plans have been approved and revised by every new crop of county supervisors for several years now. The ongoing debate and delays over the jail continue to increase construction costs and create other financial burdens that we will all be forced to shoulder with our pocketbooks…and our safety.

Currently the plan is being revised yet again—this time as a smaller jail that will house even fewer inmates than the current inadequate facility. The fact is that many supervisors don’t want a jail large enough to meet the needs of Dane County. It’s their surreptitious version of “Defund the Police.”

For the time being, it looks like we’re stuck spending a lot of money to house at least 65 of our jail residents in Oneida, Rock, and Iowa Counties. The allotted 2023 budget for housing jail inmates at other county jails is $1,089,100. This may sound like a decent solution, but you should also know that the amount of money to transport Dane County prisoners to those other county jails was cut in the 2023 budget. Yes, safety in this county is definitely being squeezed.

You Can Make Your Voice Heard

At Tuesday’s meeting the Public Protection & Judiciary Committee of the Dane County Board will vote on three separate spending resolutions to house jail inmates (euphemistically called “residents”). These resolutions pertain to each of the three contracting counties: Iowa, Oneida, and Rock. If you care about rising crime in Dane County, the City of Madison, or your village or city, you can and should attend the meeting at 5:30 p.m. tomorrow, February 28, 2022.

Offer your public input in person or on Zoom concerning the wasteful delays in approving the jail plan, starting jail construction, and the excessive expenditures resulting from the constant debates and delays of the Dane County Board relative to the jail plan. The local level is where the projects that affect you, your property, and your safety are decided.

This Committee on Public Protection & the Judiciary meeting will be a hybrid meeting. You can attend in person at Room 351, City-County Building, 210 Martin Luther King Jr Blvd in Madison, or virtually via Zoom on your computer, tablet, phone or other mobile device. To join the meeting via Zoom, click here to register.

After you’ve filled out the registration form, the Zoom meeting link and access information will be emailed to you. The link will remain active until the end of the meeting.

Anyone wishing to speak via Zoom must register at least 30 minutes prior to the meeting.

Anyone wishing to speak in person should register to speak upon arrival.

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