Falk, Mahoney Agree: More Public Safety, Less Cost in 2008 Dane County Budget
September 25, 2007
Increased safety team among 12.5 new staffers; $700,000 in equipment; $100,000 for youth gang prevention program included
Joanne Haas, Office of the County Executive (608) 267-8823 or cell (608) 669-5606
Elise Schaffer, Dane County Sheriff’s Office, (608) 284-6142
A three-fold expansion of the electronic monitoring program for eligible inmates, doubling the size of the county’s traffic safety team, adding 12.5 department staffers and $100,000 for youth gang prevention are among the key public safety provisions included in the first budget negotiated by Dane County Executive Kathleen Falk and Dane County Sheriff Dave Mahoney.
“We worked hard to create new efficiencies in order to fund more public safety – including recommendations detailed in the recent criminal justice system audit,” Falk said at a joint news conference with Mahoney. “As a result, the Sheriff and I are pleased to detail these cost-effective improvements in public safety.”
Mahoney agreed, adding: “This budget helps the Sheriff’s Office address our highest priorities for public safety. That includes a more manageable jail, safer roads and a greater diversified workforce.”
On the heels of two Monday crashes which killed five in Dane County, Falk and Mahoney are proposing the 2008 budget include a new traffic safety team which will include three full-time deputies.
“Traffic safety has always been a top priority for the Dane County Sheriff’s Office. It is with great satisfaction that we can announce today that the highly successful Dane County Traffic Team will double in size from 3 deputies to 6,” Mahoney said.
“Currently our 3-person traffic team focuses on rural county highways. With the addition of three more deputies we will be able to more consistently patrol Dane County’s beltline and other major traffic arteries, making the county’s roadways safer for everyone who drives them,” he added.
Dane County Sheriff’s Office records show the county has had between 40 and 55 traffic fatalities each year since 2004 – making it among the top counties for road deaths.
Falk said the 2008 budget continues her decade’s worth of work on public safety.
“In every one of my 10 previous annual county budgets, public safety was a top priority. The Falk-Mahoney agreement for the upcoming budget continues that goal. Our budget holds offenders accountable while making sure our neighborhoods are safe,” Falk said. “The addition of more deputies, expanded use of electronic monitoring so we always know where our inmates are – that’s 24/7 -- and improvements in our criminal justice system will make us safer at less cost.”
Some of the new deputies will be used to staff the expanded use of the electronic monitoring program from the current 40 to 60 inmates to 200 inmates. “This was one of the recommendations included in the Institute for Law and Policy Planning (ILLP) audit by Alan Kalmanoff,” Falk said of the report which stressed modernizing some of the county’s policies to promote more public safety and cost efficiencies.
With the expansion in electronic monitoring and several other key proposals which hold inmates more accountable than does the Huber Center, Falk said the county will reduce its costs of shipping inmates to other counties from more than $2 million to $150,000.
“The savings from shipping costs are being redirected into these proposals for public safety,” she said.
Mahoney said based upon the recommendations from the ILLP Criminal Justice audit, 5.5 positions will be added to the existing electronic monitoring jail program. “The Sheriff’s Office will work collaboratively with all members of the criminal justice system to identify those offenders most suitable for electronic monitoring, ensuring both public safety and a savings to taxpayers,” he said.
Both the Sheriff and County Executive agreed to create a work program for inmates. Falk said, “It doesn’t make any sense for inmates to just sit around and watch TV.”
Mahoney added: “With a work program, they can learn good skills and create valuable products.”
Also in the budget agreement is the creation of a Minority Recruitment Deputy. “This deputy’s focus will be the recruitment and retention of highly qualified candidates, especially minorities, to work for the Sheriff’s Office,” Mahoney said.
On another topic, Falk said $100,000 of the savings from the new efficiencies will fund a jobs program specifically for targeted youths in our continued work to keep kids out of gangs in our communities,” Falk said.
Falk also highlighted a few other recommendations from the recent criminal justice system audit that will lead to more efficiencies. These include:
-- Limiting the number of probation and parole inmate holds from the state. Currently, Dane County holds about 25 to 30 inmates for the state and the budget seeks to limit that to 15.
-- Creating a revolving fund of roughly $5,000 to assist the indigent inmates facing small jail bonds of $200 or so.
-- Establishing a policy with local municipalities to not sentence offenders of local ordinances – such as noise violations – to county jail. Dane County houses roughly 25 to 45 of such inmates.
-- Seeking judicial approval to authorize the Sheriff to use signature bonds for eligible offenders.
The Falk-Mahoney agreement also includes roughly $700,000 worth of equipment for the Sheriff’s Office. This includes more than a dozen vehicles, mobile data terminals, laser speed units, radios and portable breathalyzers tests.
“These cost efficiencies also will translate into funds for human services programs previously recommended for reductions,” Falk said. “Those decisions will be announced next week when the entire budget is released.”
# # #