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Dane County Board approves clearing $150,000 in jail inmate debt

Dane County Board approves clearing $150,000 in jail inmate debt

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The Dane County Board on Thursday approved a parting ask from Sheriff Dave Mahoney, clearing nearly $150,000 in debt from current or former inmates in the Dane County Jail.

The board unanimously backed canceling the debt, citing the financial difficulties created by the COVID-19 pandemic. The debt — $149,828 in total as of March 8 — is from outstanding fees and fines associated with expenses such as a work-release program, medical copays, electronic monitoring and “stolen phone minutes,” or when an inmate is charged for using phone minutes of another inmate.

Last week, Mahoney told a county committee he’d like to leave the law enforcement profession by giving “our families who are impacted by the criminal justice system and by the impacts of COVID the ability to wipe their past debt clear.”

After serving 14 years as sheriff, and four decades in law enforcement, Mahoney’s last day in elected office is Friday. He’ll be replaced as sheriff on Monday by appointee Kalvin Barrett — a former Dane County Sheriff’s deputy and current Wisconsin State Fair Park police officer and criminal justice instructor at Madison Area Technical College.

While Mahoney and county supervisors didn’t speak Thursday to the debt cancellation, the departing sheriff, who is taking a job at American Family Insurance, did spent a few minutes offering farewell words to the County Board.

“As I move into the next chapter of my life, I will remember the relationships I’ve built over the last 14½ years,” Mahoney said. “I will remember how government played out in Dane County in hopes that our state and our nation can watch and learn from the example of getting things done for the citizens of this area.”

Other action

In other action Thursday, the County Board approved $15 million in grants to help local businesses make it through the COVID-19 pandemic.

Funded by the federal American Rescue Plan relief package, Dane Buy Local — in conjunction with other business groups — will distribute the grants to independently owned, for-profit businesses based in the county. Grants range from $1,000 to $50,000.

It’s the latest round of federal money targeted to help small businesses. Last year, the county gave out $10.3 million in small business grants.

The County Board also authorized a $69,000 grant from the state Department of Transportation to boost Sheriff’s Office patrols on the Beltline this year. It’s an attempt to reduce traffic incidents and speeding along a stretch of the Beltline undergoing construction of a new “flex lane,” which will turn the interior shoulder into a part-time driving lane for traffic peak hours.


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