County Decides to Let All Women Prisoners out of Jail
- County Decides to Let All Women Prisoners out of Jail
Speaking of the female sentencing discount, La Crosse County,
Wisconsin has decided to let all of its female prisoners out of jail.
Supervisor Keith Belzer, one of the architects of the policy, says
that women who are in jail are almost always there "because of some
kind of relationship with a man." Wow.
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The Opinion Page Editor is Richard Mial (608-791-8232). The reporter,
Reid Magney, can be reached at (608) 791-8211 or
Thanks to Darrin of NCFM for sending me the piece.
County approves alternative jail program for women
By REID MAGNEY | La Crosse Tribune
Friday, December 21, 2007
Sometime next year, La Crosse County might let all its female
prisoners out of jail.
Instead of sitting behind bars, the women will be in a new community-
based program the La Crosse County Board unanimously approved
The board awarded a $250,000 contract to the YWCA to run the program,
starting in February.
About 20 to 25 women are in the jail at any one time, supervised 24/7
by two jailers at a cost of $420,000 a year, plus other operating
About 15 of those women would go on electronic home monitoring
through Justice Sanctions, and into job counseling, literacy training
and other programs through the YWCA, said Supervisor Jill
Billings. "It's a better way than locking them up."
Later next year, the county will lease or buy a "halfway house"
facility in La Crosse where up to 10 women will live. The board has
budgeted up to $250,000 for the facility. Those women also would be
on electronic home monitoring and in YWCA programming, though they
will not be supervised around the clock.
With the women's jail empty, some male prisoners could temporarily be
moved there while cell blocks in the men's jail are remodeled for the
few women who need to be jailed, said County Administrator Steve
Supervisor Jim Berns questioned whether the county would have a spike
in spending to have the women's program and women's jail at the same
"It's at least half the cost to have a woman in the community with
this intensive level of service as it is to lock them up and get
nothing and not change behavior," O'Malley said.
Board Chairman Steve Doyle said Berns is right it temporarily will
cost the county more money because they're not laying off jailers.
But having those jailers work in the main jail will improve safety
and control, something Sheriff Steve Helgeson has been asking for,
Some supervisors questioned how the county could possibly go without
a jail for women.
Supervisor Keith Belzer, a criminal defense attorney, said in 15
years he's never represented a woman who was put in jail because
"I'm not saying there won't ever be a woman in La Crosse County who's
dangerous and needs to be locked up for the safety of the community,"
said Belzer. "I will say that would be the rare exception rather than
Belzer said women are almost always in the system "because of some
kind of relationship with a man."
Getting those women treatment and help will cut recidivism, he said.
The community-based program was one of several recommendations made
last year by The Carey Group, which is helping the county improve its
jail and Justice Sanctions programs.