FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS

Why should we build better housing for inmates?

This isn't about building better housing for inmates. This is about providing a safer work environment for our staff, protection for the public, and liability protection for Trempealeau County. Additionally, the County is responsible for the health and safety of jail inmates and must provide a safe and humane environment but it doesn't mean the jail should be overly comfortable. Inmate accommodations will be simple and meet state codes.

 

​Who spends the most time in the jail?

​It's the staff who manage the inmate population: 24 hours a day, seven days a week, 365 days a year.

Why can’t the current jail be renovated?

One of the highest priorities of this project is to create a safe and cost effective means to transfer inmates from their jail cell to the courtroom without using public areas such as Clerk of Courts, Child Support, Health Department, HR, etc. Due to the layout of the existing facility, renovation is not a solution. Additionally, it would be very costly to update the jail to meet state codes and classification requirements. Renovating would require a major interior overhaul of the facility including structural, heating, cooling, electrical and plumbing systems.

Why are two juried courtrooms and one non-jury hearing room needed?

  • The Trempealeau County court system currently has two juried courtrooms (one equipped for a 12 person jury and one equipped for a 6 person jury). Learn more about the judicial workload and facilities needs.

  • Trempealeau County currently has one judge. However, the court systems also utilize a part-time Family Court Commissioner to conduct certain hearings. The court system has a number of visiting judges who preside over cases where the judge has a conflict or is substituted.

  • Both courtrooms are currently used by the Judge, visiting judges, and the Family Court Commissioner. 

  • In the proposed building project the county is looking to meet the court system needs for the next 30-50 years.

  • Designing and building a facility that meets the future needs will be more cost effective now than in the future.

  • Case load studies (which look at three-year averages) indicate Trempealeau County may likely need a second judge in the next 10 years (see District Court Administrator Letter for more detail).

  • Building a second courtroom now better positions the County to accommodate a second judge when needed and the space can be utilized for other purposes in the meantime.

  • If the court were to have two judges in the future, the Family Court Commissioner and visiting judges would not have any place to conduct court proceedings in the existing space.

  • Two 12-person jury courtrooms allows for two 12 person jury trials to be conducted at the same time. Currently, the county does not have that capability.

  • The plan provides extra space for jury selection and staging which is especially important in meeting public health recommendations related to COVID-19, or any future pandemic where social distancing is required. 

Why not use video for court dates?

Criminal defendants have a constitutional right to be in-person with the judge for certain hearings and the court system must accommodate.

What's the impact if the courtrooms are not built with the jail?

  • Wisconsin Supreme Court Rule 68.06 court facility standards recommend that court facilities should have a secure access area for inmates to travel from the jail to the courtrooms. Though not a mandate, following the standard will provide a safe and secure corridor.

  • Security and safety of the public, staff, and inmates is still a top concern. Without a secure corridor there is risk of safety issues, inmate escape, passing of contraband, and victim distress.

  • Staff would need to transport inmates nearly a block away from jail to courthouse, which may increase staffing needs.

  • May cause delays in court proceedings due to increased transport times.

What will the new jail cost to build?
The concept design cost is estimated at $38.5 - $40 million.

Will the new jail offer programs for rehabilitation/treatment?

Mental health and drug treatment facilities are a separate issue from the new justice center. Though treatment facilities may help inmates reform, there is still a demand/need for cells to house the people that have not reformed or committed other non-drug/alcohol related crimes. With that said, to better prepare inmates for successfully re-entering the community, the jail offers many inmate support services and the proposed facility includes dedicated recovery and counseling spaces to help with the need. Learn more about these programs and services.