EAU CLAIRE, Wis. (WEAU)-- Jail populations in Eau Claire are reaching some of the highest the county has ever seen, with more inmates being jailed for methamphetamine than ever before.
Eau Claire County District Attorney Gary King says in the past three years the number of people in jail because of meth, has tripled.
“We have a greater percentage of people in jail related to methamphetamine than drunk driving. We fully understand that we cannot arrest and jail our way out of this problem. We need to be creative with coming up with appropriate dispositions in these cases, while keeping in mind some of the functional capacities like the jail population,” says King.
Sean Callister, data analyst for the county says the meth population has already surpassed the OWI population.
“If we look back at the 2010 and 2011 jail populations, we were riding at about 30% OWI offenders and 2% methamphetamine offenders. We've seen a lot of great improvements from our OWI numbers; those have gone down to about 15%. We've seen a decrease in the number of jail bed days, but now we've seen that overtaken by our meth population. Towards the end of 2015 we saw those populations cross and now we actually have more meth offenders in the jail than OWI offenders,” says Callister.
So what happens once all those jail spaces are filled? Eau Claire County Sheriff Ron Cramer says the jail may have to open its spare cell block.
“We do have an empty cell block, which we know that we can build out and it has a capacity of 90 people. That's a fiscal determination by the county board and if they decide to do it and we have to ship again, we'll work with our partners in Chippewa and Dunn or some of the other counties but that’s a big transportation issue everyday moving people from one facility to another. It's going to be a work in progress for us in Eau Claire County,” says Cramer.
Cramer says the county is working on getting a $1.5 million grant that would put more resources into finding where the majority of meth obtained locally is coming from.