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MADISON, Wisc.- Despite Dane Co. Exec. Joe Parisi and Sharif Dave Mahoney’s change in tone before the New Year that no new jail would be built, Young, Gifted & Black Coalition protestors continued their sixth straight week of police violence protesting under a ‘no new jail’ banner Saturday.
“And we’re also listening to the community, which is saying ‘no new jail.’ And I think we got that message,” Mahoney said Dec. 30.
Last summer, Mahoney proposed spending $135 million for either building a new jail facility outside downtown, or renovating the current City- County Building detention units.
“No ones talking about building a new jail,” Parisi echoed during that Dec. 30. news conference.
Coalition leaders said they had no indication the statement had been made until after their Saturday protest.
“I’m moved to be hopeful,” YGB Coalition Leader Brandi Grayson said. “But the point of our demands is not that the new jail is ended. But that the money is shifted into our communities.”
On Tuesday, Parisi explained that would violate Wisconsin state statute.
“We’re allowed to use capital dollars for capital improvements, such as building improvements. But were not allowed to use those capital dollars for services,” Parisi said. “And I think what we’re looking at is the need to fix the broken- frankly the 60 plus year old broken jail cells in the City-County
Building for the safety of the people who work there and the people who serve time there.”
That fix is what county leaders are now focused on, which will still require funding. Mahoney says part of that fix includes including building new facilities that could end another protester demand: the unnecessary solitary confinement of those who do not belong there.
“Special needs housing that will prevent us from having to house someone at solitary confinement who suffers from significant, catastrophic mental health conditions,” Mahoney said.
Despite the move from the idea of rebuilding to solitary confinement ending jail renovations, Grayson says the YGB Coalition will continue their weekly protests until all three of their demands are met, which also includes locking up 350 black people convicted of what leaders call crimes of poverty.
“With people who aren’t there for violent crimes, but for being homeless, or stealing food for their kids,” Grayson says. “It’s up to them to figure out how to change the disparity rate. And we’re not going to move until it happens.”
The proposal remains before the Dane Co. Public Protection & Judiciary committee, which the chair expects to hold hearings on through February.
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