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Size the question for proposed new Winona County Jail

WINONA, Minn. (WXOW) – The Minnesota Department of Corrections has told Winona County the jail must close in October 2021 due to code violations.

“Just because of some of the deficiencies in the construction of the style of jail that it is,” Chief Deputy Jeff Mueller said. “It was built in 1977 and is a linear style jail.”

That means long hallways and Mueller says it’s just no longer viable for housing the inmates. The Jail Advisory Committee determined building a new jail would be best for the county, but what size is the question.

“We need to find that sweet spot where it becomes cheaper to transport than it does to build,” Committee Chair Justin Greens aid. “That’s going to be a real struggle to figure out.”

The initial discussion centered around having 86 to 100 designated beds for the jail. This would accommodate an anticipated growth in the jail population. However some commissioners believe that’s assuming too much it will actually happen.

“The most efficient way for me is build for what we need today,” District three commissioner Steve Jacob said. “Since we have these facilities on each side of us and we’ve been transporting out any prisoners or any inmates that go beyond capacity, we’ve been doing that for a number of years. We know exactly what those transportation costs.”

Others felt the county must plan for peak numbers and the jail population growth.

“My goal is not to fill the jail every night. My goal with the jail is to make sure I have space for everybody who needs to be in jail,” Green added.

While an actual cost isn’t set yet, it’s anticipated it could cost $22 million or less if the county decides to reduce the number of beds. While a deadline is set for the jail’s closure, the urgency to get the jail complete depends on the member you talk to.

“In my view, haste makes waste,” Jacob explained.

“I think it needs to be done in a timely manner to comply with the department of corrections sunset date is,” Mueller finished.

The goal of all members is to get the jail back to the capabilities of holding an inmate for one year, with longer sentences being served at state prisons.

Jeremy Culver

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