LA CROSSE, Wisconsin (WXOW) - Since the La Crosse County jail is over capacity, law enforcement officials are considering ways to deal with the issue at little to no cost to the taxpayer.
More than a year ago, the county jail opened its newest addition, but even with the added space, the county jail is overcrowded.
"When we're that far over capacity it really is a safety problem," said County Administrator Steve O'Malley. "It causes more friction, more problems with difficult to care for people. Some of them have mental health problems, some of them have violent offenses that they're in for. So, it's not a safe situation."
As of Monday, county statistics show 217 people in the county jail. The jail should not exceed 80 percent capacity. That means there should be no more than 174 inmates housed in the county jail.
"Currently, because of needing to keep some people separated from other people because they've been involved in the same crime, or whatever, we'll actually have up to 20 people on the floor sleeping on cots because we've exceeded capacity," O'Malley said.
O'Malley said the jail still has an unopened pod with 57 additional spaces. The county could expand to that area, but it would cost taxpayers $400,000 just to staff it.
"Obviously there's certain people who need to be in jail, that we need to be protected from for public safety, but others don't have to be in for the length of time that they're in," he said.
O'Malley said he, the sheriff, judges, justice sanctions and other officials will look into different sanctions for behavior to try to keep more people out of jail.
The County Board will discuss the issue during their budget preparation meeting in November.
O'Malley said his group will bring the board a more detailed recommendation after the first of the year.
The board will have to make a final decision about the best way to alleviate the jail population by the first quarter of 2013.
[This story has been updated to accurately report the cost taxpayers would endure if the county opened the additional jail pod.]
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