Proposed Minnehaha County Jail Expansion Takes Next Step

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Officials with the Minnehaha County jail blamed overcrowding as one reason why it was so easy for 19-year-old Anthony Beck to jump the fence at the Corrections Center on West Russell Street in Sioux Falls and escape earlier this month.  

The corrections center is typically for inmates who are on work release, so they are free to come and go for their jobs. Lately, however, the facility has also held minimum security inmates, like Beck, when there’s not enough room at the jail. Now, there could finally be a solution. 

The first steps to expand the Minnehaha County jail are in the works.  Members of the county commission’s building committee voted to approve an expansion to the downtown jail.  If approved by the full commission, the expansion will be built over the existing parking lot of the current jail.  The new building will replace the minimum security corrections center on West Russell. 

Chief Deputy Michelle Boyd says a rise in the number of felony offenders in the county justifies the project. 

“Our need is for more secure jail beds for the felony charges that are coming in and out of our jail. The increase that we’re seeing in drug charges and burglaries and robberies in town. And so the need has quickly moved from a minimum security facility to more secure beds,” Boyd said. 

The building would cost the county $45 million, but Minnehaha County Commissioner Jeff Barth says it’s worth the taxpayer investment. 

“It would be $10 for a $100,000 home, $15 for a $150,000 home, $20 for a $200,000 home,” Barth said. 

A little over 13 years ago, the Minnehaha County jail was opened, but now new plans are being created to address overcrowding. 

The current jail has 400 beds, but Boyd says that number is misleading. 

“You can’t house 400 people in a 400-bed jail because we house males, we house females, at times we house juveniles, if they’re adjudicated as an adult. And so in a 400-bed facility with all the classification and peaking factors, you really can only house about 335,” Boyd said.

Even though the new facility doesn’t provide a significant increase in beds, it will provide more security the county jail needs as it grows. 

“Last year, it was the right time to start building it, but since we can’t do it last year, today is the next best time,” Barth said. 

The need for more jail space in Minnehaha County is nothing new.  An outside consultant completed a study in early 2013.  It called the correction center on Russell Street dangerous and outdated.

The center mainly houses people on work release, but is used when the county jail downtown is full.

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