by Luke Ulatowski
For The Beacon
With the county jail seeing high inmate numbers, Sheriff Cory Roeseler received permission from the county board to hire a consultant for exploring expansion options and alternatives.
Roeseler brought the situation forward at the Feb. 13 Finance Committee meeting, where his request for permission to hire a consultant was approved. Roesler is supported in this venture by County Administrator Adam Payne and Finance Director Wendy Charnon.
Until 1998, the second floor of the Law Enforcement Center served as the primary custodial facility for the Sheriff’s Department. The Law Enforcement Center is still home to a Juvenile Detention Center meant to house up to 27 inmates.
In 1998, the Sheboygan County Adult Detention Center was constructed. The 95,000-square foot facility was built to house up to 295 inmates. On March 7, 2019, the Corrections Division reported there were 419 current inmates. According to Roeseler, not all of the counted inmates are housed at the main detention center.
“We have another 100-bed facility downtown,” Roeseler said. “Our population is around 340 to 350 right now. They get to 419 because of the inmates that are out on electronic monitoring. Those are basically sentenced individuals that are out on a bracelet program, and they’re monitored, for lack of a better term, on house arrest. That’s how we get to 419 total inmates, but they still do count as being in custody.”
The downtown jail was built in 1981 on North 6th Street. In 2016, due to overcrowding at the primary detention center, 45 female inmates were moved the the downtown location. Overcrowding has since also relocated male inmates to the location.
Roeseler clarified what is considered overcrowding. “Because of the classifications and the different types of beds that we need, 85 percent is what the state goes with as far as the capacity level to decide when it is overcrowded or overcapacity,” he said. “If you take the 390 and multiply it by 85 percent, you get roughly 330, 332, somewhere around that area. Any time we get over 330, 332, we’re technically overcrowded and overcapacity.”
To explain why keeping 85 percent capacity is important, Roeseler provided a hypothetical situation. “You and your family want to go on vacation, your wife and your two kids,” he said. “You stop at a hotel because they show they have vacancies. You can get two rooms with a king bed each, but you can’t get one room with two queens. Technically, they’re not overcapacity, but they don’t have the amount of rooms available to house the people we need to.”
Classification, the severity of a crime and physical and mental ability are all factors in deciding the type of living accommodation an inmate needs. “What we have to do is improvise otherwise,” Roeseler said. “We look at adding a couple beds through the use of some portable cots, where we put them in the same housing block where we’re adding another one or two people.”
“I think there’s a lot of things out there that are possible, and we’re really looking at the consultant to tell us what other options we could use based on what we’re currently using,” Roeseler said. “Building is just an option. There’s many other different things we could hopefully look at before we have to build.” A consultant has not yet been hired.
The Adult Detention Center houses both male and female inmates. They are provided with “basic hygiene materials, 3 meals per day, various programming opportunities such as education, counseling and religious services, as well as medical and mental health care services,” the Sheboygan County Sheriff’s Office webpage says.Employees fill 77 official positions in the Corrections Division. It is the largest branch of the Sheriff’s Office.