Data shows jail shortcomings

You would have been in tight quarters if you were booked by the Kewaunee County Sheriff’s Department. The state’s oldest and smallest jail averaged over 29 people a day, which is approximately seven people over the building’s capacity. Staffed by 14 deputies, 628 people spent an average of 12 days in the jail, whether it be for non-custody and presentence bookings, warrant pick-ups, or probation holds. When they really push their limits, individuals are sent to other county facilities. Kewaunee County Sheriff Matt Joski says the facility has its limitations when it is that full.

He credits Jail Administrator Lt. Chris VanErem and the rest of the staff for keeping everything under control, especially with new protocols due to COVID-19. You can read the rest of his thoughts below.


 In this week’s article I would like to continue my yearend report by sharing some information and data in regards to our Jail facility. The current Kewaunee County Jail was built in 1968. It has a housing capacity of 22 with three short term holding cells which brings the total to 25. By law a county jail is intended to hold sentenced individuals for up to one year. Any sentences beyond one year are remanded to a state correctional facility. While we do hold the title of the oldest and smallest jail in the State of Wisconsin, I am deeply grateful to the County Board and the community in general for the support which has been provided in regards to the planning and ultimate updating of our facility. I will keep providing updates on that planning process in upcoming articles as that process continues.


The Jail is staffed by 14 Deputies, who carry out the various duties which are set forth by state statute, federal law, as well as department policy. These men and women are also tasked with the duties of Dispatcher which is very unique in the State of Wisconsin. I believe that there are only a handful of Departments which are still configured in this manner and it speaks volumes as to the professionalism and competence of these men and women. In these past few years of COVID-19 their commitment has been tested as in no other year. We have taken numerous steps to minimize exposure to both them as well as the inmates in our care. This has meant modifying schedules, restricting access, and a constant regiment of cleaning and disinfecting. We will be all be glad to get beyond this current reality and return to operations as usual.


 Every person arrested in Kewaunee County is processed through our jail and the following are some of the most common criteria for bookings so far in 2021 which stand at 628


The first is that we call non- custody bookings. These are bookings that occur when the individual is not physically arrested. This may be in the case where the offense was not immediately reported, and it is through investigations that the probable cause for an arrest summons was completed. It could also be where we are not able to locate the suspect at the time of the event, and we are able to send charges up to the District Attorney’s Office for his consideration. These bookings account for 309 of the total bookings.


The next most frequent category is pre-sentence bookings at 132. These are bookings which are for those who are currently awaiting the completion of their court process but do not meet bail criteria. These can be some of our lengthiest stays as the legal process itself is complex and lengthy at times.


 In third place we have a tie between warrant pickups and probation holds. These two are actually quite similar as they are the result of a failure to comply with either a court order in the case of warrants or probation rules in the case of Community Corrections. These tend to be our shortest stays. But account for a great deal of the total bookings. If you have found yourself within the courts system it is vital that you understand and comply with the various courts dates as well as requirements so as to avoid being one the unfortunate within this category. The same is true for probation clients. Many of those on probation forget that this is a privilege and an alternative to incarceration which brings with it many rules. It is incumbent on the individual to know and comply with these rules to avoid a return visit to jail or in some cases a state correctional facility.


So many ask what our daily population is here in Kewaunee County. Since the beginning of the pandemic, much of our criminal justice system has incorporated processes to limit the spread and as a result many court cases along with sentencing had been postponed, thus impacting our daily population and extending some stays beyond the traditional time period. As I stated earlier, our maximum capacity is 22 and for 2021 our daily population average was 29.22 with males representing 24.17 and females 5.05 throughout the year. The average stay is approx. 12 days with the shortest stay at approx. 1 hour and the longest stay at 365 days.


To meet the daily overcrowding in our facility we make use of two primary resources; out of county facilities, primarily Door County, and the use of electronic monitoring. For the most part those who we send to Door County are the female inmates which take pressure off of our scheduling requirements to have both male and female staffing when we have females in our facility. Electronic monitoring is utilized for those who have been granted work release by the courts and meet the many requirements we have to guarantee compliance in return for this privilege. I want to acknowledge Lt. Chris VanErem our Jail Administrator for the amazing work that he and his staff do on a daily basis to balance the constant demands of the inmates, the courts, and the many regulations with the limited resources both in budget and facility.


Along with the duties of Jailer and Dispatcher, these men and women also facilitate all of the transports which are required not only locally but many times across the state to bring inmates to Kewaunee County for court as well as monitoring the Huber Program (Work Release) and Court Security. These men and women give multi tasking a whole new dimension and we are fortunate to have them serving in these roles to keep our community safe. Contrary to some beliefs, these Deputies are Law Enforcement Officers just as their counterparts in Patrol and Investigations and are a vital component of the Criminal Justice System. Next week I will share some information from 2021 as it relates to our Patrol Division.

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