County discussing possibility of closing jail's work release pro - WQOW TV: Eau Claire, WI NEWS18 News, Weather, and Sports

County discussing possibility of closing jail's work release program


Eau Claire County (WQOW) - A tighter budget has Eau Claire County giving the Huber Center a hard look.  The Huber Center is the county's work release program within the jail.  

Eau Claire County could decide to end its work release program for inmates within the county jail.

"In a tight budget climate, the county board takes a look at all its major cost centers, and right now it costs about a million dollars a year for the Huber program," says Eau Claire County Board Chair Gregg Moore.

A group of county judges, the district attorney, jail staff, the department of corrections and others who work closely with the jail are taking a look at if the county could better spend that money.

"Every year the county board includes in its budget some study areas to look specifically at certain areas of operations, and this year the Huber program, the work release facility, was one of the areas the county board selected to target," Moore says.

That group is discussing four options: closing the Huber Center, revamping it to make it more efficient, moving it into the new jail, or leaving it as it is. La Crosse County faced a similar situation several years ago, and decided to close its facility.

"The Huber Center is one of the prongs within the whole criminal justice system. We try to use a multi-pronged approach, we try to transition people from the jail, instead of just sitting in secure they're allowed to be in the Huber Center, they can go out on a daily basis to go to school, go do childcare, go to treatment programming, go to their jobs," says Eau Claire County Jail Captain Joel Brettingen.  

A few years ago, the county started an evidence-based decision making program.  The goal is to combat an overcrowded jail population by reducing the rate of repeat offenders.

"We've been molding everything around that, so to take that prong away would be a step back," Captain Brettingen says.

Right now there are 55 inmates in the Huber Center.  About 75-percent of them have work.  Those who don't have to pay $5 a day to sit in Huber. A recommendation of what to do with Huber will be made in July to the county board.

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