Columbia Correctional Institution (Wisconsin)

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Columbia Correctional Institution
A tower and a housing unit.
LocationPortage, Wisconsin
Coordinates43°33′58″N 89°29′24″W / 43.566°N 89.49°W / 43.566; -89.49Coordinates: 43°33′58″N 89°29′24″W / 43.566°N 89.49°W / 43.566; -89.49
Security classMaximum
Capacity541 males (operating)
Population832 males (as of FY 2012)
OpenedMay 1986
Managed byWisconsin Department of Corrections
Division of Adult Institutions
DirectorSusan Novak

The Columbia Correctional Institution (CCI) is an adult male maximum-security correctional facility operated by the Wisconsin Department of Corrections Division of Adult Institutions in Portage, Columbia County, Wisconsin. The operating capacity is 541. The average daily population for fiscal year 2012 was 832.[1] Susan Novak, the warden, has been in that position since June 2018.[2][3]


The facility was constructed on 110 acres (0.45 km2) at a cost of $38.6 million. It has 27 acres (110,000 m2) inside the perimeter fence. Columbia Correctional Institution opened in May 1986, with an original capacity of 450 inmates housed in single bed cells. In 1997, a 150-bed barracks was constructed for minimum security inmates and over time many of the single bed cells have been converted to double bed cells.

In 1988, a sculpture entitled Chromatic Fragments—Vortex to the Sky by artist and University of Illinois Professor of Art Christiane Martens was installed in the parking area of the prison. The 20-foot (6.1 m) tall painted steel sculpture cost $50,000.[4]

In 2007 a female staff member was accused of having sex with inmates at the prison.[5] She pleaded no contest to a lesser charge. In 2008, a female corrections officer was charged with multiple counts of second degree sexual assault. The use of force was not alleged in either situation, but Wisconsin law does not allow prisoners to consent to sex with prison staff. Punishment can be up to 40 years in prison, and a large fine.[6]

Buildings and grounds[edit]

Columbia Correctional Institution (Wisconsin) is located in Wisconsin
Columbia Correctional Institution (Wisconsin)
Columbia Correctional Institution's location in Wisconsin
  • Opened in 1986, $38.6 million
  • Originally designed and built to house 450 inmates, one per cell,[1] 541 design capacity plus modifications and expansions
  • Count as of June 27, 2008: 828[7]
  • Overcrowding has some inmates sleeping on the floor[citation needed]
  • Overcrowding forced the construction of a 150-bed barracks in 1997 for minimum security inmates and conversion of many single bed cells into double bed cells.[1]
  • 12 total housing units: 6 general population, 2 SMU (Special Management Unit [psych]), 2 segregation (plus one housing unit is half for SMU seg and reception and orientation houses min/med security seg if not put to DS2 or DS1), 1 × 150 bed barracks, 1 × 13 cell R&O (Reception & Orientation). The facility is stated to have ten living areas with 50 cells each and a 150-bed barracks.[8]
  • 110 acres (0.45 km2)

High-profile inmates[edit]

Some notorious individuals who have been incarcerated at CCI include: Chris Watts

  • Filemon Amaro: Waukesha County courtroom shootout in 1978 that killed two sheriff's deputies[9]
  • Jesse Anderson: Murderer (1957–1994); beaten to death
  • Jeffrey Dahmer (1960–1994): cannibal, rapist, and serial killer; Dahmer was beaten to death inside the prison.
  • Brendan Dassey
  • Joseph Hecht: Contract killer.[9]
  • James Oswald: Convicted of a crime spree in the mid-1990s that included kidnapping, bank robberies, wounding two officers and killing Waukesha police captain James Lutz
  • Christopher Scarver: Convicted murderer who, while in prison, killed Jeffrey Dahmer and Jesse Anderson

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b c Wisconsin Department of Corrections. Fiscal Year 2012 Annual Report: Columbia Correctional Institution Archived 2013-08-28 at the Wayback Machine., p.7.
  2. ^ New prison warden takes oath of office, lists key issues to address during his tenure. Portage Daily Register. March 10, 2005.
  3. ^ Columbia Correctional Institution. Accessed July 20, 2008.
  4. ^ "Prison debate raises the issue of public art". Milwaukee Journal Sentinel. Milwaukee, Wis.: April 20, 1997. p. 12.
  5. ^ Wisconsin State Journal and the Portage Daily Register
  6. ^ Corrections officer accused of having sex with inmate[permanent dead link]. Portage Daily Register. Also published in the Wisconsin State Journal. June 18, 2008. accessed July 20, 2008.
  7. ^ WI DOC populations. June 27, 2008
  8. ^ Columbia Correctional Institution
  9. ^ a b Vanden Brook, Tom (21 August 1988). "Dangerous Prisoners Pose Special Problems". The Milwaukee Journal. p. B7.

External links[edit]