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County Decides to Let All Women Prisoners out of Jail

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  • ken
    County Decides to Let All Women Prisoners out of Jail http://glennsacks.com/blog/?p=1588 Speaking of the female sentencing discount, La Crosse County,
    Message 1 of 1 , Dec 23, 2007
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      County Decides to Let All Women Prisoners out of Jail

      http://glennsacks.com/blog/?p=1588

      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.

      To write a Letter to the Editor, go to letters@....
      The Opinion Page Editor is Richard Mial (608-791-8232). The reporter,
      Reid Magney, can be reached at (608) 791-8211 or
      rmagney@....

      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
      Thursday night.
      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
      expenses.

      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
      O'Malley.

      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
      time.

      "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,
      O'Malley said.

      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
      she's dangerous.

      "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
      the rule."

      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.
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