(Above) The Racine County Jail. (Below-left) Sheriff Bob Carlson inside the jail.
The state Department of Corrections removed at least 25 inmates from the Racine County Jail earlier this year over concerns about the level of medical staffing in the jail.
Sheriff Bob Carlson said Friday the state relocated some, but not all, of its prisoners to other jails after pressing the county to add medical staff. He said the County Board is now looking to do just that.
Board members are scheduled to vote Tuesday on adding a full-time nurse practioner to the jail and increasing the number of doctor hours from six to 12 per week. The additional staffing by Health Professionals Ltd. would cost $153,750.
"We feel it's a significant step forward," he said.
But even if the positions are approved, and then filled, the sheriff said he didn't know if the state would return the removed inmates to the jail.
"It will depend on their needs," Carlson said.
Another source close to the situation said the loss of the state inmates is another blow to county revenue, and that it's resulted in a hiring freeze on jail guards. The county even had to pull at least one job offer from an employee who had given notice at work, the source said.
Carlson said there was no official "freeze" on hiring, but confirmed there wasn't a need to hire any new guards. The jail's population is so low they've closed an entire wing of the facility to save on costs.
The jail housed 676 inmates on Wednesday, nearly 200 below the jail's capacity of 860 inmates. The county spent $29 million to renovate the jail and add 210 beds for inmates. Part of the expansion included plans to increase revenue by renting out beds to outside law enforcement agencies, but it's been a bad year for that business.
First, the local inmate population is down, Carlson said. The summer months will likely see a boost in the numbers, he said, but it's unclear if the increase will require hiring more employees or opening the closed wing.
The Department of Corrections' contract is the second group of out-of-town inmates the county has lost this year. In February, Kenosha County ended an $880,000 contract with Racine County to house juvenile delinquents at the Juvenile Detention Center. Both amount to lost county revenue that will have to be made up in the county's budgets.