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Dane County Sheriff Dave Mahoney weighs criminal justice issues

Dane County Sheriff Dave Mahoney says providing more data to evaluate racial disparities in the criminal justice system could be expensive.

A recent report’s top recommendation to help reduce racial disparities in the Dane County criminal justice system could be costly, Sheriff Dave Mahoney said in an interview Sunday.

The report, developed over four months by three groups, offered more than 30 recommendations in areas such as how long inmates spend in jail, alternatives to arrest and incarceration and how best to deal with mentally ill offenders.

One of the key recommendations from all three groups was that the county should collect and monitor more data on race, gender and ethnicity to help pinpoint and address areas of racial disparities in its criminal justice system.

Mahoney said he doesn’t oppose collecting more data in those areas, but warned it wouldn’t come cheap, noting that the “software will result in significant expenditures.”

“It isn’t a matter of collecting data. You have to create a program to do that,” Mahoney said. “It costs money.”

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Mahoney has asked for $34,300 in next year’s budget for department training to help address implicit bias and foster better cultural understanding, which is one of the recommendations of the report. But he said it’s unlikely other recommendations will be included in the 2016 budget because it will be submitted in early October and the recommendations are still only in draft form.

Mahoney continued to advocate for improvements to the Dane County jail facilities, noting the 1950s-era City-County Building jail continues to have malfunctioning doors that could prevent guards from assisting a suicidal inmate. The County Board rejected a $150 million proposal last year, opting instead for ways to reduce incarceration rates, which led to the creation of the work groups.

Many of the recommendations are similar to those made in a 2007 consultant’s report to the county on reducing the county’s jail population. Mahoney said several of those ideas have not been implemented by the courts and district attorney’s office, which are funded by the state.

“The committees and the community at large needs to understand the barriers are high,” Mahoney said.

Each work group included about a dozen citizens who worked with county staff and facilitators.

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