Population study sought to help decipher jail overcrowding

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EAU CLAIRE, Wis. (WEAU) -- Sarah Ferber knows the world of the Eau Claire County jail.

The Eau Claire woman has a criminal record of drug use, but graduated from a treatment court in 2015.

"I think that a lot of people think or believe that once somebody has kind of traveled down that road, there's no hope … but, there is hope," Ferber said to WEAU 13 News on Thursday.

That hope was with county leaders Thursday, as they looked at ways of easing the overcrowding at the jail.

As of Thursday morning, the Eau Claire county jail housed 220 secured inmates – 85 percent of its regarded capacity. While the figure seems high, it was less than the 245 inmates – a 95 percent capacity – the jail had on Monday.

It’s stats like these which have forced Eau Claire County Sheriff Ron Cramer to send inmates out to other county jails to accommodate.

"We've got to figure out what's reasonable for us and there's not money coming from the state to help us with this inmate overpopulation issue," Cramer said to WEAU 13 News on Thursday.

If there is an albatross tied to Eau Claire County jail overcrowding problem, it may be a section of the facility which remains unfinished.

"The county board made the decision not to build that fourth pod out, which may have been a mistake,” Cramer said. “If we would have built it out, we wouldn't be shipping and we wouldn't be having this discussion today."

Thursday, the county's committee on judiciary and law enforcement recommended a population study be completed by June of 2019 to see how to fix the issue. The proposal now goes to the full county board for a vote, which is expected at the board's next meeting December 18.

It’s another step Ferber hopes leads to a positive result.

"I want to see us, as a community, invest in people's success, rather than kind of throw people in a box and forget about them," she said.