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Marathon County jail study panel ready to release findings

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The Marathon County Jail Study panel meets to discuss jail improvements, April 30 2013
The Marathon County Jail Study panel meets to discuss jail improvements, April 30 2013

WAUSAU, Wis. (WSAU) - The Marathon County Jail Safety Panel put the finishing touches on their recommendations to the rest of the county this morning.

That panel was convened after two officers were injured in an attack by an inmate earlier this year. Panel chair Paul Jones says they're ready to present their findings next month and look to the future. "There are specific recommendations, and since we'll meet again in January of 2014, I assume we'll see what moves the department has taken." Primary among their concerns are overcrowding in the jail, low staffing levels in the corrections department, and building improvements that are needed in the jail.

A draft version of the document has been in the works over the last several meetings, and panel members are asking the jail to go through a workplace staffing study in order to find out what's going well and what isn't. "Substantial changes have been made in how the staff have been used, and that will lead to general efficiency in the organization, but the conclusion is that the department is understaffed." Jones says officers simply don't have the time they need to train and take time off in order to recuperate right now.

Requests for changes to the jail facility are also in that document. Money set aside for improvements and repairs to the jail's intercoms had not been spent. Tasers were purchased but not distributed before that attack. Visitation for inmates remains a problem, taking officers away from their other duties to shuffle inmates around. The jail's laundry area is not fully secured, and inmates can get in and out from that area.

Jones says they're confident that changes are already in the works. He says the department has been nothing but forthcoming with the panel. "Very few organizations that are under scrutiny will voluntarily expose themselves this thoroughly if they don't believe they have some answers for you."

The panel's recommendations will be released publicly at a hearing July 8th.

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