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Dane County Jail (copy)

A deputy makes rounds of the cells at the Dane County Jail in Madison.

After nixing the construction of a new in-house laundry facility at the Dane County Jail that would be staffed by inmate workers, the county board is now faced with upgrading the existing facilities.

In a Nov. 17 memo from Capt. Richelle Anhalt to Chief Deputy Jeff Hook, Anhalt detailed concerns with the current laundry facilities in the Public Safety Building, City County Building and Ferris Center. One of the main concerns is the temperature of the water, which Anhalt wrote is about 40 degrees below the 160-degree industry standard. Another is the difficulty of laundering inmates’ personal clothing items, like socks and underwear.

“With no project on the horizon, it is imperative that the current laundry system deficiencies be rectified,” Anhalt wrote.

The concern with water temperature is that the temperature is not high enough to adequately combat biohazardous materials, like blood and bodily fluids.

The county's Facilities Management department took up the issue last fall, but plans for a new in-house jail facility delayed action on upgrades. In November, the Dane County Board decided to scrap the new facility, with supervisors arguing it would take living wage jobs from community members and instead pay inmates a low wage for the work.

With that $925,000 project taken out, the County Board is now considering a resolution that would borrow $135,000 in the 2016 capital budget to fund the upgrades. The measure is sponsored by all seven members of the county's Public Protection and Judiciary Committee, as well as board Chair Sharon Corrigan and Supervisor John Hendrick. The board is slated to vote on the funding Thursday evening.

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Facilities Management detailed two cost options to add heaters, with the gas option coming out to $134,442 and electric totaling $108,042. Though the cost of an electric heater is lower, Anhalt’s memo said it is less efficient and uses more energy, increasing the overall operating cost above that of a gas heater.

The Sheriff’s Office also plans to switch to issuing all inmate personal garments, like socks, underwear, t-shirts, bras and thermal tops, instead of having them be the sole property of inmates. The aim is to restore parity for all inmates and mitigate claims due to loss of inmate-owned property.

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