Winnebago County Court Holds Special Session

By: Mark Lindner
By: Mark Lindner

For years, the Winnebago County Jail has been bursting at the seams. Recently, the state has ordered the jail to reduce its numbers by nearly three hundred prisoners.

"We need to do something extraordinary to reduce the jail population as quickly as we can," says Assistant State's Attorney Tom Wartowski

Winnebago County took a big step towards doing that Saturday afternoon, holding a special session to process arrests made in the past twenty-four hours.

"We are seeing if it serves the taxpayers well to have an extra court session or not and see if it does anything to relieve the situation," says Associate Judge Fernando Engelsma.

Right now, the jail population stands at 519, and it needs to get down to 400.

"The jail overcrowding needs to be addressed but we also need to be physically responsible in doing so," Engelsma says.

Engelsma heard between 25-30 cases on what's typically his day off.

"This gives an opportunity for us to have more information at our disposal when we consider whether to release someone on bond," he says.

In order to reduce those numbers though, the County may be letting some slip through the cracks.

"The person that's committing retail thefts time after time might be back on the street committing another retail theft," Tom Wartowski says.

"As a judge, one of our foremost responsibilities is to consider the safety of the public. We just can't release everybody," says Fernando Engelsma.

"We really don't have a whole lot of options cause there are a lot of serious violent crimes where we absolutely need to incarcerate those people for the safety of the community," adds Wartowski.

The County chose to have the special session this weekend because otherwise, those arrested would have to be held in jail until the Tuesday after Labor Day. Charges that were heard in court today ranged from driving under the influence to robbery.


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