Crackdown on crime puts strain on Rock County Jail population

Jail and prison bars

Police are putting pressure on criminals in Rock County, specifically in Beloit, but that targeted enforcement is creating a set of problems at the jail.

A crackdown on the violence in Rock County means more inmates are being taken to jail and with arrests continuing to increase, the Rock County Sheriff’s Office is looking for alternative ways to house inmates.

“While this has been a good thing for Beloit and we are going to continue to have a strong presence there, at the end of the day, we are going to have to manage an inmate population that is increasing,” Rock County Sheriff Bob Spoden said.

The sheriff’s office partnered with Beloit police in February to keep criminals off the street by increasing patrols and executing targeted warrant and drug sweeps, but the initiative has been so successful they’re running out of room at the jail.

“Obviously we don’t want to fill up our jail with people. We would rather have people obey the law and stay home, but on the other side, we know that there has been some issues of crime in Beloit and as part of this initiative, we are going to go after these individuals,” Spoden said. “We are going to take them off the street so the streets can become safe for everyone.”

The prison is averaging 486 prisoners this year with a maximum capacity of 505. Those numbers compare to 426 in 2013.

“We have to look at what we are housing. The type of classification that we have, what has led us then to do is increase our alternative programs,” Spoden said. “Adding additional inmates that are suitable to our work program or our bracelet program or our recap program and divert them from the cells.”

Spoden said one of his biggest concerns is safety.

“Your risk of having an inmate-verses-officer confrontation goes up. The risk factor for the officers goes up. The stress level goes up. So when we think about the Beloit initiative, it’s not just impacting deputy sheriffs that are on patrol, it also impacts correction officers in the jail,” Spoden said.