As of 6 a.m. today, 913 people were booked into the Dane County Jail’s three detention facilities.
Of these, 795 were men and 118 women. Four hundred and four were African American, 490 white, eight were Native American or Alaskan and 11 were Asian or Pacific Islanders. Fifty-nine were brought into the system in the past 24 hours.
This isn’t quite full capacity, which is over 1,000 people.
The command center for the county’s three detention facilities is on the ground floor of the Public Safety Building on 115 W. Doty St. People who are arrested are taken here, where they first go into a room where they’re searched and the processing begins.
This can take hours, as medical staff examines inmates, and deputies take fingerprints and photographs, inmates call lawyers, and officials determine where to send people. The processing center is surprisingly relaxed. Inmates sit in a central holding cell, but the door is wide open. “They’re brand new in here,” explains Sgt. Michelle Shelhamer, of the people sitting in the open room. “Nobody [in there] has been charged with a crime yet or convicted of anything.”
There are more secure holding cells to isolate people who are violent or have mental health issues, she says, but they generally try to keep the jail relaxed to lower stress. There are, however, deputies everywhere.
“If they need to make a phone call, we want them to,” says Sgt. Michelle Shelhamer. “Sometimes that alone can help with behavioral problems, if they’re able to make a call and connect with someone on the outside.”
The processing center isn’t just for those who are arrested, but also those who are being processed for court, getting shipped to other jails or released.
Jonathan Britton was brought in this morning from the state Waupun Correctional Institution, where he’s been for about a year. He’s back in Dane County to face additional charges that he says related from “a lot of fighting.”
“I like it here better. They give you a little more freedom,” he says. “[In prison] there’s nothing to do but lie down all day.”
Plus, he’s closer to family. He called them this morning to let them know he’s in town so they can visit — they only get to Waupun about once a month.
Derrell Jones was brought in today from Dodge Correctional Institution, also to face new charges.
“It’s not a place you want to be,” he says. “You really don’t want to be friends with anyone here. It’s best to get used to being by yourself.”
– Joe Tarr