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