Northwoods jails house state prisoners to combat overcrowdingSubmitted: 01/20/2020
Story By Stephen Goin

Northwoods jails house state prisoners to combat overcrowding
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.

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FOREST COUNTY - Wildlife officials report that another dog-related death is believed to be related to a rash of poisonings happening in northeastern Wisconsin.

The Wausau Daily Herald reports that there have been at least five dogs that died and seven wild animals that have died from poison in the past year.

According to the United States Fish And Wildlife Service, the latest death was a three-year-old German Shepherd that was being walked in Forest County. 

The Wisconsin DNR and US Fish and Wildlife are still investigating the case and lab tests are currently pending.

Officials suggest that pet owners keep their pets on a leash when outside. They also suggest keeping an eye out for anything suspicious. 

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WAUSAU - A long line of cars forms in the mornings at The Neighbor's Place in Wausau.

Executive Director Donna Ambrose says this is because some people are desperate to get some food during the coronavirus pandemic.

The Neighbor's Place has switched to a drive through service.

This has forced the food pantry to set up a new system to make sure people get the food they need.

"This is where they are staging the groceries in the carts so they can quickly and easily wheel them outside and set them on the tables," said Ambrose.

There is no requirement for past income at The Neighbor's Place. 

All they need to know is how much you're making right now.

Ambrose said she wants more people in need to learn about The Neighbor's Place.

"We're hoping that people who've never been here before, that need that help, will definitely reach out and drive up and get groceries they need for their household," said Ambrose.

The Neighbor's Place prefers monetary donations right now.

This is so they don't have to deal with disinfecting food.

If you'd like to donate, go to Neighbor's Place dot org.

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RHINELANDER - With store shelves frequently running out of hand sanitizer, it's probably safe to say people are using it a lot more. With that in mind, have you ever wondered how that affects pets we may touch?

Health officials do say hand sanitizer is safe to use around pets, but a little caution goes a long way. Ingestion is when problems arise.

"Irritation to the linings of the mouth, the tongue, the esophagus and the stomach. So you would have salivation, maybe some difficulty swallowing, frequent swallowing," said Northern Paws Animal Hospital Veterinarian Ray Goodroad. " [It could] maybe [cause] vomiting if they ingest enough of it."

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NORTHWOODS - COVID-19 forced many non-profits to close its doors due to safety concerns, but one local organization's staff is still doing what they can to serve the community.

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MADISON - State Democrats introduced legislation trying to make the remaining elections this year take place by mail. This comes after Tuesday's dismal primary.

Democrats say that making the move now will prevent future problems as the COVID-19 pandemic shows no signs of ending soon.

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MADISON - Gov. Tony Evers on Thursday ordered the closure of 40 Wisconsin's state parks, forests and recreational areas primarily in southern and southeastern Wisconsin to help reduce overcrowding and vandalism and to slow the spread of the coronavirus.

Evers' warned that the order could be followed by more closures if the public doesn't follow social distancing guidelines and vandalism continues. The sites that will close indefinitely starting Thursday night include some of the state's most popular hiking and camping destinations, which had been a place for cooped up families to spend time outdoors during the stay-at-home order.

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MADISON - Gov. Tony Evers will allow churches to offer drive-up services on Good Friday and Easter, his spokeswoman said on Thursday.

The conservative law firm the Wisconsin Institute for Law and Liberty and religious groups asked for clarity earlier Thursday.

"Our intention was always to ensure that people could still practice their faith while also following the public health and safety measures necessary to flatten the curve and keep folks safe," said Evers' spokeswoman Melissa Baldauff.

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