During the full county board meeting Aug. 21, board members voted to approve housing inmates arrested by the Ho-Chunk Nation in Jackson County jails.
The Ho-Chunk Nation has had a criminal code enacted for a couple of years, but just recently enacted a criminal procedure code.
“Our court has just adopted procedures as of last month, so we do anticipate seeing more of the cases within the Ho-Chunk Nation, which hopefully will help our sister jurisdiction with having some prosecutorial discretion over at the nation,” Ho-Chunk Nation attorney general Amanda WhiteEagle said.
Even though the Ho-Chunk Nation could arrest someone, they needed to find a place for the inmates to go that they arrested.
“They really don’t have a mechanism to keep anyone in custody for a long period of time like in jail. Being that their office is in Black River Falls, they are needing some assistance with housing of inmates if they are choosing to do so,” Jackson County sheriff Duane Waldera said.
The biggest benefit to the county is that it will get reimbursed for housing the inmates, many of which already reside in the jail.
“We are essentially going to be assisting the county. We don’t have a large law enforcement. It is approximately four officers, but we would like the ability to take some of these cases into our jurisdiction,” WhiteEagle said. “This would be compensating the county, which currently you are not receiving any compensation.”
According to Jackson County corporate counsel Garrett Nix, the county would get reimbursed at a rate of $59 a day, the total being invoiced monthly to the Ho-Chunk Nation.
“The purpose of this is not to profit, but it is that it essentially shouldn’t cost the county anything,” Nix said. “The Ho-Chunk Nation will be taking on a certain number of individuals that are currently being prosecuted under our criminal code. It is not necessarily additional people, in theory, it is individuals that are currently being prosecuted and being put in jail by Jackson County that would then be prosecuted and placed in jail by the Ho-Chunk Nation and reimbursed.”
Even though this could provide some financial benefits for the county, there are concerns that this could overcrowd the jail even further that it already is.
“I think it is always concerning to increase our population for the jail side. We are definitely capable. It is our business to house inmates. I don’t know where this is going to take us, if it ends up being more inmates and we have to have a different discussion, it might be more of a concern if we can’t take both of our populations,” Waldera said.
“I have been hesitant on this because we are overcrowded, but the arguments that have been presented are good. The overflow placement protection clause protects us on that,” county board member Jeff Amo said.
Even though this could increase the jail population, the contract provides guidance on what happens if the jail is at full capacity. The contract is for a five year term and can be terminated after a 90 day notice. The Ho-Chunk Nation would also be responsible for transporting their inmates to court and back to the jail.
“The Nation would happily readdress this if needed if it becomes a burden to either,” WhiteEagle said explaining that the Ho-Chunk Nation is hoping to do this in other counties as well.