ONEIDA & VILAS COUNTY - The population of people in prison grew steadily over the past five years according to data from the Wisconsin Department of Corrections. The inmate increase has contributed to jail overcrowding problems that local authorities hope to alleviate.
"The correctional system is over populated and they don't have enough bed space," said Oneida County Jail Capt. Mark Neuman.
Without bed space, the state has turned to local jails to house prisoners temporarily; Oneida County's facility is contracted to hold 100 of them. According to Neuman, the contract has been in place for three or four years.
Every few weeks, a OCSO employee makes the more than three-hour drive to the Dodge Correctional Facility in Waupun to "exchange" prisoners. Eight inmates are transferred to Oneida County where they will be housed for up to four months. At the same time, eight inmates who had been held in Oneida County are put back into the state's system to serve the rest of their sentence in prison.
"It's a great program and it's great for the county and it generates a lot of revenue," said Neuman.
The Oneida County Jail makes more than $50 per day for housing each inmate. Through similar contracts in the past, Capt. Tyler Young said those funds helped pay for Oneida County's law enforcement center and the people who work in it.
"Because of the state inmates that we have in the jail we have to have more corrections officers," said Young.
Young said additional funds made from the prisoner exchange are put into the county's general fund..
Recently, Oneida County signed another contract with the state to retain qualifying local inmates with less than one year left on their prison sentences. The "inmate retention program" (IRP) is also designed to keep inmates out of state prisons and combat overcrowding.
Oneida County isn't the only Northwoods community that's a part of the overcrowding solution. Vilas County is contracted to house 25 prisoners and Jail Administrator Bill Weiss says it benefits both the county's general fund and prisoners who go there.
"The inmates that come here are eligible to be in our programs, one has gone through the recovery program, we offer a GED to the program; they're mixed in with our county inmates and it seems to work well," said Weiss.
According to a Facebook post from Minocqua Sandwich Company, on March 26, Minocqua Sandwich Company received an anonymous donation for $100 to buy sandwiches for the heroes at the Howard Young Hospital emergency room.
Bad Bones BBQ also received a donation to provide $100 worth of BBQ to the Marshfield Clinic.
According to a Facebook post from Minocqua Sandwich Company, "Per Mar Security over on Highway 70, donated $200 to be used to buy sandwiches for people on the front lines. After that money was raised, folks within the Per Mar Security world, their friends, and family, raised another $400 amongst themselves to keep this idea going."
Minocqua Sandwich Company decided to give $100 worth of sandwiches or burritos a day to whomever is working during the COVID-19 pandemic until money runs out.
Owner Minocqua Sandwich Company Kirk Bangstad says he loves the generosity of the community.
RHINELANDER - Movie theaters across the country are shut down right now. At Rouman Cinema in Rhinelander, staff are still finding a way to put smiles on customers' faces.
Late Friday night, owner George Rouman decided to host a spontaneous curb-side popcorn sale. From 3 p.m. to 6 p.m. Saturday, cars lined up to purchase a jumbo bag of movie theater popcorn and a candy of their choice for just $5.
"We're clearly very careful about how we're accepting the money," said Rouman. "People are very satisfied and they've been waiting for quite a long time, many of them."
RHINELANDER - With flights well below capacity during the coronavirus outbreak, the waiting area at the Rhinelander-Oneida County airport is empty, at a time when airport director Matthew Leitner says twice-daily flights from Rhinelander to Minneapolis are usually pretty full.
"This time of year, we're usually seeing about 60 percent [full]" Leitner said. "Of course, we're pretty far below that now."
According to Leitner, Rhinelander's airport is far from alone.
"Whether it's Chicago or Boston or Las Vegas or Salt Lake City, everyone's down 75 to 90 percent and I don't think we're an exception," Leitner said.
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