Dane County, Wis., officials are considering building a jail that could become the largest public works project in county history, while saving millions of tax dollars in annual operating expenses and providing better care and guidance for mentally ill inmates, reports the Wisconsin State Journal. At a cost that could exceed $85 million, the lockup would centralize operations that now are strung inefficiently through three buildings in and around Madison. And it would replace 1954-vintage cell blocks with modern dormitory designs that are considered safer and potentially less costly to operate.
But with county finances tight, a construction proposal may face strong skepticism from County Board members. Nationally, direct-supervision dormitory designs have been in use for decades, including in newer sections of the Dane County Jail. More efficient jail operations would free up guards and medical staff. The consulting firm Mead & Hunt is expected to deliver a report on options and costs by December.