DETROIT LAKES, Minn. — Becker County has its sights set on a new $16 million to $18 million jail in Detroit Lakes. The decision to build a new jail comes after the county was ordered by the state to either close or replace its maximum-security jail by the Minnesota Department of Corrections.
“We are under mandate from the [Minnesota] Department of Corrections,” said County Sheriff Todd Glander to Detroit Lakes Online. “If we don’t do something, we’ll have to turn it into a 90-day facility.”
“The Department of Corrections has pretty strict guidelines we have to follow,” added County Administrator Jack Ingstad to Detroit Lakes Online.
Since the existing jail is at capacity, the county has been paying other counties to house its excess inmates, including Hubbard, Douglas, Todd, Morrison, Kandiyohi and Wilkin County, all in Minnesota. At an average of $55 per inmate per day, the county expects to spend about $615,000 next year on inmate boarding costs, according to Ingstad.
Looking for ways to lower costs, a brainstorming session was held recently that included staff from county administration, the sheriff’s office, district judges, courts, probation, the county attorney’s office, city attorney’s office and others. “We met to discuss what we can do to reduce the number of people we have boarded, basically the number of people we have in jail,” Ingstad told Detroit Lakes Online.
In order to address some of the issues, a new jail and new jail location were proposed. The new jail will be located on a nearly 17-acre, pie-shaped piece of land that is now empty except for a former gravel pit. The dugout area will be restored to buildable land via county gravel tax funds. There is no estimate at this point as to how much that will cost.
In September, the Detroit Lakes City Council approved on first reading the annexation of 16.83 acres of county-owned land to the city for the county’s new jail. The jail will be built to house about 156 inmates and possibly as many as 192 inmates, said Glander to Detroit Lakes Online. The current jail contains just 43 beds.
Becker County’s new jail layout will be a two-level pod design, similar to jails designed by St. Louis Park, Minn.-based Klein McCarthy Architects for Kanabec County and Douglas County in Minnesota. County commissioners and Becker County sheriff’s department officials toured the Kanabec County Jail on Sept. 21 in order to see their options.
Construction time for the Kanabec County jail was 16 months. The pie-shaped pods allow separation of various categories of inmates, and give staff in the central control area a clear view of the entire facility. The new design will also allow services to be completed on cells from a rear service corridor, rather than entering the cells as they currently do.
The new Becker County jail will continue to provide local programs that help inmates receive their high school equivalency degree or work on drug and alcohol problems. The project is expected to go to bid in March 2017 with construction slated for May of that year.