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The Cost Of Growth

February 2, 2014, 10:12 PM by Leland Steva

The Cost Of Growth

Sioux Falls' population has increased by 28,000 over the past decade. But a rise in people is also leading to problem at the Minnehaha County Jail.

As the city of Sioux Falls grows, there are more venues for people to explore. While there are benefits, a population boom has drawbacks too.

"This is a rapidly growing community and unfortunately our jail numbers are growing right alongside of it," Minnehaha County Sheriff Mike Milstead said.

Sheriff Mike Milstead says the jail has housed as many as 90 federal inmates at one time as they wait to be transported to other facilities. Suspects on trial for felonies stay at the  jail until their trails are over as well as inmates from as many as 14 area counties.

Programs like 24/7 and SCRAM ankle bracelets ease the population a little by keeping non-violent offenders out of the jail. More than 600 offenders are being monitored every day.

"Get people who maybe aren't dangerous back to work and back to supporting their families and paying their taxes as opposed to being a taxpayer burden," Milstead said.

But Milstead says that's only a temporary fix, and a long-term solution is needed.

"It's kind of getting down to crunch time," Milstead said.

The Sheriff's Office and the Minnehaha County Commission's Office got together to form a five-person Criminal Justice Committee to project what the county might need to house inmates in the future.

"If it holds true, we're looking at then the next 15 years we're going to have a facility in addition to our current jail, downtown jail that would house about 500 inmates. If we're going to look out 10 years, one that would house 400," Milstead said. 

Craig Anderson is the chairman of the committee, and the only public member in the group. 

"It's really a privilege to be working with these people and to witness the level of professionalism that they bring to us," Chairman Craig Anderson.

The County Corrections Center located on Russell Street was first built to house low-risk, work release offenders. Due to the surging population at the jail, the CCC is housing more dangerous inmates due to overflow.

"I think that beyond a doubt that the County Corrections Center has outlived its usefulness," Anderson said.

"It's 4.5 acres on a golf course across the street from the new events center. Pretty valuable real estate and probably not a really good place for a correctional facility, especially because we're going to need something to house medium, minimum, and maximum security inmates," Milstead said.

While the committee has shown the need for a new facility, there is one issue that has the County Sheriff worried.

"We are funded primarily by property tax, and if I would say there is any more concern that I have is when they finally determine what they need to do it's going to impact the property tax so that people who live in their homes or have property in this county, and that's a difficult thing to do although it's very necessary and it's happened in the past," Milstead said.

No matter the cost, Anderson thinks the time to help relieve the stress of inmate overpopulation is now.

"I think the timing is about right, but we can't dither now. We need to get our report in front of the commission which should happen in the next couple weeks and then we need to move right into the actual planning stages for locating a new facility, designing it, building it, and putting it into operation," Anderson said. 

Once the plan is approved, Anderson estimates it will take one to two years before the county will have a fully operational facility.

For minutes from the Criminal Justice Committee's Meetings click here

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