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Kewaunee County Jail "an end of an era before the era"

One phrase in the report released by Venture Architects last month about the Kewaunee County Jail left Sheriff Matt Joski with both a sense of pride and embarrassment. The report called the current facility “an end of an era before the era,” pointing out the facility’s small size and antiquated equipment. Joski says it is a shame it has taken so long to address the jail but is proud of the men and women who have taken the building’s shortcomings in stride. After having a chance to digest the report, Joski says it gives the jail planning committee and the public a direction to go into as the project hits its second phase.

Phase two of the jail planning study will put a heavy focus on the operational and architecture of any new facility they plan to create. You can read Joski’s full statement about the current status of the study online with this story.



At the County Board meeting, Venture Architects provided their Phase One report. As you may recall, we had embarked upon the study of current Public Safety Building which includes our Jail as well as Communications Center and supporting administrative offices. The overall study was to be conducted in three separate phases with a report out at the completion of each phase. This most recent presentation is the culmination of the work done in Phase One. This report had six components; Background, Assessment of Bed Needs, Physical Assessment of current facility, Selected Options, Recommendations, and Next Steps.

    As with any journey, you must first understand where you are starting from and thus the background portion of the report. This is information which I have reported in the past as it relates to the current facility and its many limitations as well as our current staffing model.

    The next component of determining bed needs would seem to be very straight forward, but it contains many variables which if ignored would fail to provide accurate needs both currently as well as into the future. Some of these variables which were incorporated are classification requirements, peak housing factors and a maintenance factor. These factors are all very important as we have an obligation to future generations as we plan for the next 50 years making sure that we incorporate any and all factors into our plans so that they too can benefit from our vision. It is important to note that our considerations for capacity is based strictly on our own need as a community and not that of another community or a desire to house out of county, or state/federal inmates. We have an obligation to those in our community as it relates to both incarceration as well as treatment and programs, and it is that obligation which we are focused on.

     The physical assessment of our current facility was an interesting portion of the study as we were finally able to shed light on the many facility issues we have been struggling with for so many years. There was an interesting statement during these conversations from our Jail Inspector who, when referring to our facility and its outdated components stated that we are “Of an Era before the Era”. I say this with both a sense of embarrassment as well as a sense of pride; embarrassment that we have neglected this facility for so long, but proud that the men and women working within its walls have mitigated the many risks and shortfalls by their professionalism and dedication to the care of those we are responsible to keep safe.

      The fourth component is truly the first step in a tangible outcome and that is the selection of options. There was a great deal of thought and discussion that went into the various options which resulted in three possibilities. One option is always to do nothing, which would require us to continue sending our inmates to other facilities in the hopes that they themselves do not reach capacity resulting in our expulsion from those facilities. This option of outsourcing is a dangerous and negligent approach to our obligation as a county. The next option would be to raze the current building and build a new facility on the current site. This option brings with it many limitations due to our current footprint which would result in a great deal of inefficiencies both in structure and staff operations. The third option is to build just a jail/communications center offsite and leave the Sheriff’s Department Offices in the basement of the Courthouse. The fourth option is to build a new facility offsite which would include all of the Sheriff’s Department operations much like what was encompassed in the current Public Safety Building upon it construction 50 years ago. These selections lead us to the final step in phase one which was to recommend that Kewaunee County begin planning for a New Law Enforcement Center.

     This brings us to our next steps which will be under consideration in the upcoming months. These steps include public awareness and outreach, review of phase one report by the various county committees, and ultimately a decision to embark upon phase two of our study which will look at the operational and architectural programs of a potential new facility. I would again invite anyone who has an interest in the subject to please give me a call and we can have a discussion of any questions or concerns you may have as well as a tour of the current facility. Also, the report which I have been referencing will posted to our website under the “Facility Update” link.

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