While Dane County Board supervisors have made considerable progress in prison reform, there is still disagreement surrounding the consulting firm chosen to assess the conditions in the Dane County Jail.

Consulting firm Mead and Hunt is slated to prepare a study assessing the life and safety needs in the Dane County Jail, despite the fact they were contracted to perform the same duty last year and delivered a report that supervisors on the County Board were unsatisfactory, Dane County Board Supervisor Carousel Bayrd, District 8, said.

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While Mead and Hunt’s original proposal for improving jail conditions in Dane County was not well-received, the firm managed to win itself a second opportunity to offer suggestions for potential solutions through a routine County Board process known as a request for proposals, or RFP, Bayrd said.

In an RFP, the County Board announces what kind of work it needs done, and consulting firms bid against each other for a chance to work for the board, Baryd said.

“Mead and Hunt had the most thorough answers, they had the most thorough details that were on point of what we were looking for, so they won the bid,” Bayrd said. “I’m not a supporter of Mead and Hunt; I’m very vocal of the fact that I didn’t think the job they did on the previous study was the job we wished had happened … However, they have won the contract and they want to move forward.”

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In spite of this opposition, some officials, such as Dane County Sheriff Dave Mahoney, support Mead and Hunt’s renewed involvement in Dane County prison reform.

Mahoney said because the data Mead and Hunt already collected is intellectual property of the firm, it would not have been shared with a new consulting firm, resulting in a substantial increase in cost for the assessment.

“I think it’s a good thing that we hired Mead and Hunt to complete this second RFP,” Mahoney said. “They have extensive knowledge of the Dane County Jail, and had we selected a different consulting firm, we would have spent another $300,000 plus on top of the $400,000 that is being approved in this RFP to redo the work that Mead and Hunt had previously completed.”

While contrasting opinions of Mead and Hunt’s efficacy are bound to encumber the process of prison reform in Dane County, Mahoney made it clear that something must be done about the current state of the Dane County Jail.

Mahoney said the jail is not up to standards in various ways. He mentioned two issues of serious concern, faulty doors and lack of special needs housing.

During emergencies, some doors will freeze up, which could make losing an inmate a possibility. Currently, inmates with medical or mental health conditions are housed in solitary confinement.

“I believe this is inhumane and borders on significant violations,” Mahoney said.

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Fortunately, the County Board is excited to take on the challenge of addressing these issues, Bayrd said.

Criminal justice reform is not frequently handled at the local level. Dane County’s decision to implement prison reform at this level is a rare occurrence, Bayrd said.

“We’re making criminal justice reform and we’re the only local government that’s doing it,” Bayrd said. “No one’s doing what we’re doing. It’s exciting and fabulous, and I look forward to continuing momentum and making sure the work group recommendations are implemented to the utmost possibility.”