An Online Resource Center for Family and Friends of People Battling Drug Addiction

Dane County Legal System

Many of our loved ones have committed crimes or gotten into trouble with the law as a result of their drug use.  In Wisconsin, individuals 17 years of age and older are considered and charged as adults. We, at the Parent Addiction Network of Dane County, want to provide some information, references and resources to those of you trying to navigate the Dane County criminal justice system as it applies to drug-related offenses.

Seeing my son arrested in front of me, left me without legs. – Dane County Parent

I’ll never forget the afternoon when my son called and said, “I’m going to jail.” My heart stopped.  I had no idea what to do, where to go, or how to talk with him. – Madison Parent

One of the hardest things I have ever had to do was to have my son arrested…but it was the right thing to do. – Fitchburg Parent

I believed I was doing the right thing by bailing my son out of jail. He promised that he would go directly to a treatment program. The irony is that if he stayed in jail as an uninsured addict, he was likely to qualify for county funded programming and go there directly. Bailing him out just continued the nightmare that we had been facing for months. – Madison Parent 

Prison or Jail


Prisons are run by the Wisconsin Department of Corrections. They are located in communities around the state and contain prisoners from all over the state. Jails are located within the county of conviction.  In Dane County, they are run by the Dane County Sheriff’s Office, and generally only house inmates convicted in that county. A prison sentence must be for at least one year.  A jail sentence for one crime cannot be for more than one year, although a judge occasionally sentences a defendant to consecutive (one after the other) jail sentences for different crimes with the total of all sentences being more than a year.

If a defendant is sentenced to several crimes and the sentences are concurrent, they run at the same time.  For example, a defendant who receives concurrent sentences of 5 years and 10 years will serve just 10 years.  If the sentences are consecutive, they would total fifteen years.  A person sentenced to jail generally gets “good time” and will only have to serve 75% of the sentence.  Thus a jail sentence of 4 months can be completed in three months.  However,  every day of the confinement portion of a prison sentence must be served.  A sentence of 3 years initial confinement and 3 years extended supervision would result in the defendant spending three years in the prison system, followed by three years on extended supervision: monitoring in the community by the state Department of Corrections that is similar to probation.

Dane County Sheriff’s Office
The Office of the Dane County Sheriff represents court law enforcement. This includes operations of county jails, service and processing of legal documents (restraining orders, evictions, repossessions, foreclosures), and execution of criminal warrants.
Telephone: 608-284-6800 (general information)

Wisconsin Department of Corrections


UPDATE (7/2016)

Walking through the booking (intake) process:

1. After getting booked into the Dane County Jail, you are seen by the jail’s medical staff and the mental health staff.

  • If you have a valid prescription, the medical staff will evaluate you and you will now fall under their care.
  • If you arrive after recently consuming an illegal substance,  you may be monitored by medical staff prior to moving further into the jail housing areas.

2. After completing fingerprints and photos, you are escorted to a dorm area to await court, bail or further classification into the jail’s housing system.

  • The Hearing and Classification staff are civilians who use objective criteria such as criminal history, institutional behavior and medical or mental health information to determine where you will be placed within the jail.  Other issues such as being a juvenile or issues that may make one vulnerable in custody are also addressed.
  • Defendants are identified who no longer require Initial Appearance court and classified based on the criteria noted above.  If a person is here on a sanction from the court, (s)he will likely remain in intake housing until release. Sanctions are usually 24-72 hours and do not require another court appearance.

3. If you are awaiting court, you will be seen by the public defender’s office for a questionnaire to determine if you are eligible for a public defender.

  • Note: if you do not qualify for a public defender, one will still be at INITIAL APPEARANCE (I.A.) court for you.  If you have a hired attorney, they can come to the jail to see you in a visitation booth prior to court.
  • On an average, misdemeanors can take 1-3 “working” days before you go to INITIAL APPEARANCE.  Felony charges can take 2-5 “working” days depending on the charge.  If you have an additional “HOLD” like a Probation Hold or an “Out Of County” hold, you can be set back further to a later court docket.  NOTE: the jail DOES NOT know who is going to I.A. court until a few minutes before court when they get the list from the bailiffs.   The CLERK OF COURTS should have the list in the afternoon.

4. If a signature bond is given and there are no other holds, it can still take up to a few hours to release you from jail.  Jail RECORDS has to wait for the paperwork from court to get to them, run the person for a final warrant check, then get the information to the Movement Deputies to release the person from jail.

5. If you are given a bail or a signature bond but still have a hold, you will be moved to another part of the jail for more permanent housing.

  • NOTE:  You may NOT set up visits in the dorm area, but may set them up once you get to your permanent housing area.

6. After classification, a person may be moved into the general population, special needs housing or segregated housing as determined by the classification process. Once in these areas, a person may schedule visits, access to allowable personal property, order commissary and attend available programs.

7. The person may wait in jail or may be returned to jail at any time during the court process. Bail conditions may be changed by the court as the process moves forward. After 7-10 days from the initial appearance, the pre-trial appearance occurs.  Then the trial phase may happen. After a trial or plea bargain then sentencing may take place. If a felony charge is pending, a Pre-Sentence Investigation(PSI) is ordered by the court. A probation agent from the Department of Corrections (DOC) will interview the defendant. The PSI is a confidential document including a socio- economic and criminal history. It will identify strengths and needs of the defendant and include a sentence recommendation to the court. Sentencing usually takes place 60-90 days after the PSI begins.  The court process may take a few weeks or months depending on the complexity of the issues in the case and how the defendant chooses to proceed.

8. After sentencing, a person may remain in the community or be incarcerated.  If a person is given probation, (s)he will report to the Department of Corrections-Community Corrections with certain conditions outlined by the Court. A probation agent will supervise the offender for the time ordered by the court and address issues that contributed to the legal case through programs or counseling. A person can be ordered to jail or prison for their sentence. If sentenced to jail, a person is granted “Huber law” and may be allowed to go into the community for work or treatment.  They may also be considered for jail diversion program (also known as house arrest) and serve the sentence from home on a GPS bracelet.  If ordered to prison, they will serve the confinement time and then be released to community supervision and report to a DOC officer for the community time.

9. Please see Criminal Court Process for more court information.

10. Answers to many questions such as “Who decides whether to make an arrest?” and, “What happens next?” can be found on the District Attorney’s website


Regarding money for inmates at Dane County Jail:

Deposits can be made by going to You can deposit funds for the inmate to order things from the commissary including food, drinks, toiletries, clothing.  Or, you can select certain items as a care package.

You will need the inmate ID number and name to place your order. If you type the name and county jail, the inmate ID number should appear. Otherwise, you get the ID number by calling the jail.

For Phone Call Usage:  Go to  This is the place you deposit money for phone calls only.


Additional Information

Jail – Adults: Information for Parents (pdf)  This document, prepared by the Parent Addiction Network, provides information about medical services available in jail, visitation, jail programs, and services.

Update (3/2014):  New jail visitation policy (pdf)

Dane County Jail System
 (url)  Click on this link to learn about visitation, visitation times, visitation rules, property, money, mail, locating an inmate, reporting to jail.

To find out if someone is in the Dane County Jail: Call the jail at 608-284-6800 or the VINE system at 1-877-418-8463 

Juvenile in Wisconsin:  a person at least 10 years of age and less than 18 years of age, except when a person is alleged to have violated a state or federal criminal law, a civil law or municipal ordinance.  In such cases, a person who has attained 17 years of age is deemed an adult and charged in adult court.

Arrest – what happens next? Answers to many questions such as “Who decides whether to make an arrest?” and, “What happens next?” can be found on the District Attorney’s website

HUBER (Work Release)

An individual may be sentenced to the Dane County Jail with Work Release/Huber Privileges. Huber allows certain inmates of the county jails to leave the jail for work, schooling, or other approved activities. Huber is granted or denied by the courts.
For more information see, Huber_Law_You_June 2010 (pdf)


Court Involvement – Adult (pdf).   Read this document, prepared by the Parent Addiction Network, to learn about:

  • Charges
  • Jail visitation and regulations
  • Attorney options
  • Criminal procedures: Bail, Felony cases, Misdemeanor cases, Contact with the Court; Sentencing; Prison or Jail; Probation

SEE ALSO:  The Criminal Court Process (pdf) for a brief explanation of the criminal court process.


Court Involvement-Juvenile (pdf)  Read this document, prepared by the Parent Addiction Network, to learn about

  • Differences between juvenile justice and adult criminal system
  • CHIPS and JIPS
  • Delinquent acts
  • Custody – Apprehension
  • Attorney
  • The hearing process
  • Costs to parents
  • Confidentiality
  • FAQs

FAQs about Juvenile Court in Dane County (url)

NOTE:  Check the date of the publication of some policies and procedures change.

Juvenile Court (url):  This site includes many resources related to procedures, policies, rights and guidance.

Dane County Juvenile Court Resource Booklet
 Note that information in this booklet is current as of January 2006.

Parents’ Guide to the Juvenile Court
See this guide to better understand the various Court Proceedings with questions and answers asked by parents and children.

Clerk of Courts: Frequently asked Questions about Juvenile Court  (url)

Dane County Department of Human Services  (url)
Dane County Legal Resource Center, located in the Dane County Courthouse.
Call 608-266-6361608-266-6361 for hours

The State Bar of Wisconsin educational resources (url).  There is Teens in the Law: A Parent’s Resource; and a Teen resource guide:  What you should know about Wisconsin Law;  plus other resources.


Drug Court – Treatment and Diversion Programs

update 8/28/2014
Dane County’s AODA Programs have been revised as of Spring 2014.  There are three tiers. Based on the results of screening and assessment to determine the risk of reoffense and treatment needs, offenders may be assigned to:

1) Low – Deferred Prosecution Unit (DPU)

2) Medium – Drug Court Diversion Program (DCDP)

3) High – Drug Court Treatment Program (DCTP)

Please see the following documents for information about these 3 tiers.  Updated 8/28/2014

Presentation – “Dane County Drug Court, August 6, 2014”  Summary of presentation that highlights changes in Dane County Drug Court
Handbook – Dane County Diversion Program
Handbook – Dane County Treatment Program
Drug Court Diversion Contract
Deferred Prosecution Unit (video of presentation)

Also, please see the Clerk of Courts website at


Involuntary Civil Commitment

This is a civil, not criminal, court process.  The State of Wisconsin provides for Involuntary Commitment to a Psychiatric Hospital for Drug Dependence.  A summary of the law and legal process can be found in the document Involuntary Civil Commitments (pdf). In Dane County, additional questions can be directed to Carlos Pabellon, Dane County Corporation Counsel, PH:  608-266-4355 or Richard Greenlee, PH: 608-266-4355;  Or, Vue Yang, PH: 608-266-4355;

Probation and Parole

Department of Corrections Home Page:
Probation and Parole website:
Telephone, Region 1 Regional Office:  608-240-3830
Many defendants are put on probation, which means they will be supervised by a Probation Agent working for the Wisconsin Department of Corrections.  There are generally many conditions that a person on probation must follow.  Some may be set by the judge at the time of the sentencing hearing.  Others may be set by the Probation Agent.  Some examples of conditions that may be a part of probation are no contact with certain persons, curfew, AODA treatment, not to use or possess drug paraphernalia, not to be in bars or liquor stores, maintain full-time employment, obtain a high school diploma or GED, etc.

If a probationer violates rules of probation, misses meetings with his Probation Agent, has urine tests that are positive for drugs or alcohol, or commits other infractions, the agent may order the probationer jailed while the alleged violations are investigated.  If the violations are serious, revocation of probation may be initiated by the Agent.  This is a legal process that includes the right to have a hearing with an Administrative Law Judge before probation is revoked.  Often the Agent may offer the defendant an alternative to revocation.  For example, if the probationer has repeated violations of using drugs or alcohol, the Agent may offer to allow the probationer to enter residential AODA treatment instead of having probation revoked.  If the defendant fails to successfully complete the Alternative to Revocation (ATR), the Agent would proceed with revocation of the probation and a sentence to jail or prison.

See the Probation and Parole website link above to find the Standard Rules of Community Supervision that every offender under community supervision is provided a copy of and must adhere to.


The Earned Release Program (ERP) provides statutorily eligible inmates an incentive to actively participate in an intensive alcohol and drug treatment program designed to reduce the incidence of future criminal behaviors. Initial eligibility for the programming is determined by a Judge. Offenders are screened for suitable placement by the Bureau of Offender Classification and Movement. Offenders in ERP must complete a high-intensity evidence-based residential alcohol and drug treatment program. Groups are six months in length and are conducted as closed groups with 10 inmates per group. The program includes reintegration planning, and a post-release supervision component carried out by the Division of Community Corrections.  See the eligibility requirements as stated in Wisconsin Statutes 302.05(3) at

The Challenge Incarceration Program (CIP) provides inmates opportunity to gain life skills needed to return to the community and successfully complete their parole/extended supervision.


Helpful Tip

How can a parent work with probation and parole as a team?  Response to parent questions, prepared by Parent Addiction Network, April 2016

Glossary of common legal terms, used in Dane County legal system

Victim Services

Victim Witness Unit (in the Dane County District Attorney’s Office) – Chapter 950 of the Wisconsin Statutes requires counties to enforce victim and witness rights. The Victim Witness Unit enforces those rights and advocates to ensure that victims and witnesses are treated with dignity and respect. See the Victim Witness Unit  (url) website for information, assistance, and brochures of services.  PH:  608-266-9003
Crime Response Program – This program provides services to victims of crime, their families, witnesses on-scene or in the early stages of the investigation. Also, if a parent/loved one is a victim of a charged crime committed by their child, they can be added as a party to be informed of all of their rights as a crime victim. This includes the right to be notified of all hearings and to confer on the outcome of the criminal process. See the Crime Response Program (url) website for additional information and brochure of services.

Please see the Wisconsin Department of Corrections website at  (url)


Question: Who can I call if I am running into roadblocks in the criminal justice system?
Answer: You are free to call Julie Foley or the Crime Response Program. Telephone: 608-284-6908

Question: Does Wisconsin have a Good Samaritan Law?
Answer: Not at this time.  But if someone appears to be overdosing, don’t wait:  CALL 911

A Statewide Committee has released a report of recommendations for a WI Good Samaritan Law.  See, The Good Sam Report, May 2013



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