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Vilas County Annual Jail Inspection Report Finds Two Violations

County jails are inspected each year by the Wisconsin Dept. of Corrections to assess safety, sanitation, adequacy and fitness of the jail for inmates and provide areas of operations that need to be addressed or modified.

The Vilas County jail was inspected last October with the final report received the end of January according to jail administrator Bill Weiss and was approved for continued operation with two areas where violations were observed and recommendations for improvements.

One area for improvement was identifying a qualified mental heath professional to authorize removing an inmate from suicide watch status only after an on-site face-to-face assessment. There was a removal after telephone consultation, not face-to-face, and there was non-compliance identifying the mental health professional who was consulted.

One other area violation was inmates on suicide watch have to be personally observed at staggered intervals not to exceed 15 minutes.

The report indicates inmates had very positive things to say about the day-to-day jail operation with no common themed complaints and expressing appreciation for administrator Weiss with the time and efforts regarding programming especially in the area of drug and alcohol addiction. Sheriff Joe Fath noted they “didn’t even complain about the food.”

Areas for review included staggered 60 minute intervals for inmate observation which Weiss indicating they now stagger observations every 45 minutes, improve suicide watch procedural steps, increase review of mental health by two hours per week, document minor disciplines and the right of an inmate to due process hearing, and removing trash bags used for covering windows.

The DOT inspector, Jodi Hollister, praised the jail staff for having all documentation requested well organized, noting with the ongoing pandemic it has been a challenge to modify jail procedures to ensure inmate safety.

Built in 1999, the Justice Center jail can accommodate 125 persons.

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