Eau Claire County Sheriff proposes jail expansion

Published: Sep. 30, 2021 at 6:46 PM CDT
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EAU CLAIRE, Wis. (WEAU) - The Eau Claire County Jail may be expanding.

That’s because Eau Claire County Sheriff Ron Cramer is hoping to use federal dollars, from the American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) signed into law by President Joe Biden earlier this year, for two projects.

One project would add 14 holding cells to the booking area. The other would build a fourth cell pod.

“With COVID, this would be very very helpful for to isolate people for 10 to 14 days before they go into the general population,” Cramer said.

County documents estimate the booking area expansion would cost $1,463,000. It would increase the number of holding cells from 23 to 37.

After the pandemic, Cramer said an increase in holding cells would help avoid overcrowding on long weekends when courts aren’t open.

The other proposal, adding a fourth cell pod, would allow the jail to expand services like reentry programs to inmates.

“Every person’s different but a lot of these folks we’ve seen in our facility numerous times,” Cramer said. “And we’re not a corrections facility but the community would like to see us go that direction. But again, we need funding.”

County documents show that project could cost $4,752,000.

Cramer said the jail would have to use taxpayer dollars to operate a new cell pod. It’s estimated to cost $2,391,495 each year.

Eau Claire County Administrator Kathryn Schauf said the county received $20 million from ARPA.

She added deciding how to spend these federal dollars could take years. The Eau Claire County Board of Supervisors gets the final say.

“We have a number of different departments and they’ve all put forward different ideas on how we may want to look at spending or investing the ARP dollars making our community better,” Schauf said.

Cramer said he feels the best investment is in a facility most people never see the inside of because those who do are also part of the community.

“The jail is the community,” he said. “These people live in our community. We have to take care of them. We have to feed them, provide them medical, mental health, which is a big issue. Some of these people are on probation and violated their probation. At some point, they’re getting out of this facility and coming back into the community.”

Cramer said he also wants to use federal stimulus dollars to give all Sheriff’s Office employees a one-time $5,000 bonus rewarding them for their hard work throughout the pandemic.

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