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Parisi vetoes jail pause

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Joe Parisi signed a Dane County budget for 2023 that totals $853 million, saying he agreed with the “vast majority” of the amendments County Board supervisors made to his initial budget proposal.

One important piece got a veto, though: a provision added by a majority vote of the County Board that would pause the planning process on the six-story jail consolidation project in order to move toward a smaller, five-story facility proposed by the County Board’s Black Caucus.

“The county has been talking about closing the antiquated, unsafe jail space in the City County Building (CCB) for more than a decade,” Parisi wrote in a memo to the board. “After spending millions of dollars on studies, analysis, and design alternatives, there are still hundreds of individuals that remain in that space today – physical confines that clearly do not reflect the values of a progressive criminal justice model focused on treatment, rehabilitation, and a path to a true second chance through meaningful reform. Just a few months ago, the County Board approved designing a compromise solution addressing the outdated CCB jail. The budget presented to me called for stopping the very design work the Board asked be done then and is now only weeks away from completion.”

The veto does not affect funding for the current jail operations or the jail consolidation project.

“After spending years avoiding taking any leadership on the jail project, the County Executive vetoed the Black Caucus jail plan which was supported by the County Board,” said Black Caucus member April Kigeya. “The County Executive neglected to address any jail funding or plan in his budget proposal … It is disappointing to see this project set back months with ballooning costs due to a lack of leadership and vision from his office.”

“We finally now know where the County Executive stands on the jail consolidation project,” County Board Chair Patrick Miles said in an email to Madison365. “I supported the 5-story design for many reasons, including that right-sizing the project is the responsible thing to do, recognizing we can jail fewer people and save tax-payers millions of dollars each year. I also supported the smaller design because I thought it would leverage more votes for funding the project, not just the next step, but two or three steps down the road. Clearly, there is not board consensus about funding the larger design.”

The County Executive did not veto other amendments that came from the Black Caucus, which included provisions to increase equity in the criminal justice system.