The County Board Finance Committee on Wednesday approved, 7-0, a budget amendment calling for the county to report on the fees it charges for holding inmates for municipalities at the County Jail and House of Correction.
"The report shall include applicable laws, current contracts, and the feasibility of increasing daily commitment fees charged," says the amendment, sponsored by County Supervisor Sheldon Wasserman.
Suburban municipal ordinance offenders who do not fulfill their Municipal court obligations are incarcerated at the House through municipal court "commitments." Most Milwaukee commitments are served at the Couty Jail, with overflow sent to the House. The city receives jail services for no charge, but pays the daily rate for commitments served at the House.
Wisconsin Justice Initiative wrote to county supervisors last month asking them to consider raising the daily boarding rate at the House from the current $25.40, which WJI believes does not cover the House's costs (see letter below).
WJI is concerned that the low rate charged by the House encourages some county cities and villages to incarcerate indigent inmates instead of making real efforts to offer indigency hearings and alternative sentences, as required by law.
"Thanks to Supervisor Wasserman and the Finance Committee," WJI Executive Director Gretchen Schuldt said Wednesday. "This is a really positive first step and we look forward to working with the county on this important initiative."
Suburban incarceration rates vary dramatically. The House billed West Allis, for example, $174,066.20 for 6,853 commitment days last year; Wauwatosa, in contrast, was billed $8,636 for 340 commitment days.
The full County Board will vote Monday on the 2017 budget.
Gretchen Schuldt is executive director of the Wisconsin Justice Initiative.
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