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M'Haha Co. Jail 'Bursting At The Seams'

January 9, 2014, 5:44 PM by Ben Dunsmoor

M'Haha Co. Jail 'Bursting At The Seams'

Minnehaha County will likely have to build a new jail to house a growing inmate population. 

The number of criminal cases filed in Minnehaha County has skyrocketed by nearly 80 percent in the last decade and a consultant tells officials that the county may need to house as many as 950 inmates by the year 2033.

"The county commission has a lot of decisions coming up related to that issue," Minnehaha County Sheriff Mike Milstead said.

A consultant told members of the county commission this week the numbers shows the main downtown jail has been running at 97 percent capacity for the past two years.

On weekends, Milstead says they have to shuttle many of the lower security inmates to the aging community corrections center on Russell Street.

"They're not on work release, they're not people who should necessarily be in a dorm setting, but we need to move them out because we know on Thursday, Friday, Saturday, Sunday we're going to be bursting at the seams at the downtown jail," Milstead said.

This week one of those inmates who was moved to the unit on Russell Street broke out a window and escaped. He was captured within 15 minutes but Milstead says the converted Elks Club is no longer a viable place to house inmates and the county needs to replace it.

If the county closes the old corrections center its likely a new 500 bed facility may be needed to accommodate projected growth.

"The reality is Sioux Falls and Minnehaha County are growing by leaps and bounds. We need to have safe housing, safe for my officers to work in, safe for the public that lives in the vicinity of the correctional facility," Milstead said.

That means some serious discussions in the coming weeks and months about how the county will handle the growing jail population.

"It's decision time again," Milstead said.

It cost about $18 million to build the current 400 bed Minnehaha County Jail back in 2002. There is no cost estimate on a new facility.

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