MARINETTE — Two initiatives are in the works to help control the population of the 165-bed Marinette County Jail that has topped 130 in recent months.

Sheriff Jerry Sauve told the Public Services Committee on Tuesday that an agreement is in the works to lower the population of the jail by not always jailing people who have unpaid fines. 

“I’ve been keeping the committees informed of our watch on the jail population and the things we’re doing to keep that number manageable,” he said. “I did meet with the judges and the clerk of courts and we have made progress in the area of a new procedure for people sitting (in jail) with unpaid fines depending on the threshold of dollars they owe.

“The judges (James Morrison and David Miron) have been very helpful with working on a plan. I’m awaiting response to my written correspondence to the judges. I should have that back this week.”

Sauve told the committee “we’re going to work out something where instead of some of these people taking up beds and sitting in jail because they can’t pay their fines we’re going to exercise some other options.”

“I think that’s a long time coming,” he said. “Other counties are doing that.”

He said that on Monday six people from the jail were on electronic monitoring and 13 on Soberlink that “otherwise would be in jail.”

“We’ve got 23 out there working on Huber Law, that’s really good,” Sauve said. “The economy is good and there’s a number of places that are hiring people and they leave our building to go to work. It wasn’t that long ago that we only had half-a-dozen out there (with Huber Law privileges).”

In other action aimed at controlling the jail population, the committee reviewed a proposed resolution urging the state to increase funding and compensation for Public Defender’s Office appointments of lawyers.

The committee was told at its October meeting that the local Public Defender’s Office was short one attorney and that it was difficult to get other lawyers wanting to be appointed to criminal cases because of low compensation rates, thus extending the time in jail for some inmates.

County Administrator John Lefebvre said the Administrative Committee will decide Thursday whether to forward the resolution to the full county board, but that he wanted the Public Services Committee to review it because it “is the committee that deals with the courts, district attorney and sheriff’s department.” He said the resolution was drafted by another county and minor changes were made to “fit our county.”

The resolution notes that statewide almost 40 percent of Public Defender cases are appointed to private attorneys and that the rate of compensation of private attorneys of $40 per hour and $25 per hour for travel time is the lowest in the nation and hasn’t been increased since 1996.

“Judges are increasingly being forced to appoint counsel at county expense for persons for whom the Public Defender cannot find representation due to lack of available counsel, as a result of the low compensation rate,” the resolution says. “This results in costs to counties if judges appoint special counsel, increased costs to jail persons held before trial pending appointment of counsel, and a delay in obtaining justice for victims.

“Whereas the shortage of attorneys willing to accept Public Defender appointments at the current rate of compensation has created a burden on courts and Wisconsin counties, now therefore it be resolved that the Marinette County Board of Supervisors does hereby urge the State of Wisconsin to provide sufficient resources to the Office of the Public Defender to ensure that the criminal justice system operates effectively and efficiently, and that the Marinette County Board of Supervisors does hereby support increasing the rate of of reimbursement for private bar attorneys appointed by the Public Defender’s office to a market rate that will ensure the prompt appointment of of counsel and will ensure that cases are handled in a timely and efficient matter.”

The resolution if approved by the county board will be forwarded to the governor, the Wisconsin Counties Association and state legislators that represent the residents of Marinette County.

Also at Tuesday’s meeting:

¦ Two of the sheriff’s officers involved in the apprehension of the robber of a bank in Stephenson and banks in the Milwaukee area — Sgt. Robert Amundson and Deputy Spencer Elias, and his K9 partner Cash, — were presented letters of commendation from the FBI.

Sauve said Amundson and Elias were unable to be present in July when a contingent of FBI agents presented commendations to eight officers of the Marinette County Sheriff’s Department and one of the Peshtigo Police Department  for their roles in the capture of Devontae Amos, who while armed robbed the mBank in Stephenson in Aug. 25, 2017, while being wanted for three bank robberies in the Milwaukee area. The Marinette Police Department also was involved in the capture of Amos, 25 at the time, of Sheboygan, Wis., on the same day he robbed the mBank in Stephenson. He was lodged in the Marinette County Jail pending extradition. The FBI had offered a $20,000 reward for information leading to Amos’ capture.

¦ Sauve reported that county law enforcement officers have had a “bad year” with collisions between squad cars and deer, including one recently, and said “without a spare car we would really be hurting.”

“There’s not much to be said, the guys are out there doing their patrol activities and the deer are just out there,” Lt. Jason Ducane said. “We’ve just had a lot of deer hits lately and some expensive ones.”

¦ The committee voted 6-0 for the county to accept a donation of $280 from the memorial fund of former Sheriff Joe Larson who died Aug. 28, to be put in a fund for honor guard uniforms.