Weeks before his last day on the job, Dane County Sheriff David Mahoney wants to erase nearly $150,000 in outstanding court fees and fines accrued by people incarcerated in the county jail.
Those housed in the Dane County Jail can go into debt by using another person’s phone minutes, owing medical copays or not paying electronic monitoring fees.
“It’s the right thing to do as a society as we’re struggling with so many challenges of the criminal justice system, trying to give people some foot up, if you will, and a new beginning,” Mahoney said.
Mahoney said removing the debt could give people in jail who owe money peace of mind by removing the financial burden.
It could also help family members who financially support relatives in jail for things like making phone calls or purchasing commissary items. If a person in jail owes money, the sheriff’s office takes a portion of any funds that are given to them to pay back the fees.
On Tuesday, the Public Protection & Judiciary Committee unanimously recommended a resolution authorizing the immediate elimination of debt for fees and fines totaling $149,828. Mahoney is not forgiving fees incurred by those who have damaged county property.
A county subcommittee that formed in 2020 has been reviewing fees and fines assessed in the civil, human services, and criminal justice systems. The group is scheduled to hear a presentation from the sheriff’s office Wednesday at noon.
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