County jail construction stands to become a bigger challenge if a new state bill which expands how counties can spend assessments makes its way into law.
State Sen. Luther Olsen, R-Ripon, is behind a bill that would allow counties to spend money generated from criminal fines on medical and educational needs for inmates in addition to spending it on construction, equipment and maintenance.
Under state law, if a person has to pay a fine for violating state, county or municipal law, part of that fine goes into a county jail budget, which is used solely for the purpose of purchasing necessary jail equipment or providing maintenance, expansion or construction work.
Olsen said counties with newly built jails are sitting on the money when they could be using it for other programs.
But counties chasing new jail projects could suffer if county board members are given the alternative of providing educational help to inmates, as opposed to the perennially unpopular choice of building a new or expanded facility.
The Eau Claire County Sheriff’s Office said the bill is well intentioned, but will create more problems for counties in the future.