Religious leaders fundraising in hopes to add sacred space to Dane County Jail
MADISON, Wis. — Being in jail is temporary by definition, but what if inmates could have access to a spiritual space that would help in that transitional period from behind bars to back on the streets?
— Jamie Perez (@JamiePerezTV) July 26, 2018
Well, that could be a possibility with a new $76 million renovation project that’s working to consolidate the three Dane County Jail buildings to fit under one roof.
Part of that consolidation is the consideration of adding a sacred space where inmates can fulfill their spiritual needs.
“It wouldn’t be just one faith that would be using this space. It would be a variety of faiths. That’s why we think it’s so important,” said Madison Area Jail Ministry Chair Paul Skidmore. “We don’t envision a very large place but some place that’s dedicated would be great.”
The ministry board is working on fundraising around $150,000 in hopes of having this dedicated space for religious purposes.
Because space in the renovation plans will be a bit scarce as well as cost and resources, Dane County Sheriff Dave Mahoney thinks a multipurpose space for religious practices is more practical.
“If we are talking about dedicated spiritual space that can be used for nothing else, when we are looking at all the programs we need to establish and create to end the cycle of incarceration, the question would be, if we were to do that, what don’t you want? Do you not want medical housing? Do you not want mental health space? Do you not want a job training program?” Mahoney said.
There are already religious services provided to the inmates now, but from a transformational standpoint, having that dedicated area could help with the healing process.
“We have people that speak on our behalf, we have individuals that have been incarcerated that come back as volunteers,” Skidmore said.
For Mahoney, the space itself isn’t what makes it spiritual.
“Right now, the space that is used in our jails is four walls. What makes that a spiritual space are the people. That won’t change,” Mahoney said.
Construction on the renovation project will begin in 2019. It’s not yet been determined whether the sacred space will be a dedicated space or shared with a multipurpose room.
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