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Renewed interest in building a new Portage County Jail


STEVENS POINT, Wis. (WSAU) -- The discussion about creating a new Portage County law enforcement center has started again.

County Executive Patty Dreier says the Portage County’s Public Safety and Emergency Management Committee passed a resolution Wednesday which restarts the discussion about jail facilities. “This resolution is to establish a new county correctional facility as a priority for future planning and construction.”

Dreier says she is working on the county’s long-term plans, and the members of Public Safety and Emergency Management Committee feel this needs to be a priority. “They’re going on the record saying, ok, we’re interested. This is what they see as a top need for planning and they’re endorsing the concept of constructing a new unified correctional institution, housing a jail, juvenile detention facility, rehabilitation programming facilities, and transitional housing unit in a single structure.” That single structure, if built, would also be connected directly to the county’s courtroom facilities.

Dreier acknowledges they currently have a jail overcrowding problem, and like other counties, send several prisoners to Lincoln County because they don’t have space. She says there are options like electronic monitoring and special programs, but it doesn’t solve the problems of their present jail. “We need to attend to a facility that is very outdated, and isn’t as efficient and doesn’t offer all of the modern safety features and opportunities for classifying prisoners that we want.”

The concept of a new jail is not new in Portage County, but it has failed in the past due to the cost.

Dreier says Wednesday’s committee action is the beginning of the discussion, and it’s too early to know if other committees and the full county board will support the concept.

(Our interview with County Executive Patty Dreier is attached, and covers several topics.)