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Kewaunee Co. Sheriff explains how a new $25.6 million jail will impact officers, inmates and public safety

Posted at 7:32 PM, Aug 01, 2022
and last updated 2022-08-01 20:32:31-04

KEWAUNEE, Wis. (NBC 26) — Right now, it looks like any other piece of Kewaunee County farmland.

But in the coming years, Sheriff Matt Joski says it'll be the location of a facility that's been needed for over two decades.

"We are finally as a community moving past this issue that's kind of been hanging over us as a community, so we're very optimistic," he said.

Just two weeks ago, the county board approved the construction of a new county jail that's expected to cost over $25 million.

"It's on the outskirts of town with minimal residential impact," Joski said. "That's the best we can do in a project like this."

Kewaunee County leaders say that project is needed to replace a jail that, right now, has several issues.

"The structure's built in the late '60s," Joski said. "It was built at the time with what was the common practice, and that's called linear. So you're gonna see long hallways, a lot of blind corners, blind spots, very inefficient spaces."

The current jail has 22 beds. The new one will be expandable to 55.

Also, the current building has 'zero' space to provide programming for inmates.

"Whether that be mental health, whether that be addiction, whether that be job training, whatever we can provide that will steer them in a better direction than what they came to us in," Joski said.

A statement of support made by Judge Jeffrey Wisnicky was read at the July 19 county board meeting.

"Far too often, law enforcement, the district attorney and the court have to make public safety compromises by letting people out of custody because of the limitations of our jail," the statement read.

That's why Joski hopes the bigger jail and public safety building will provide flexibility.

"We don't wanna build this and have it irrelevant after ten years," he said. "We want to make sure that we're spending this money as effectively and efficiently as we can."

The sheriff says the county's present-day jail is the 'weak link' to the criminal justice system. But after seven years of planning, that will soon change.