Architect reaffirms jail needs

Published 12:00 am Thursday, May 2, 2002

Research reassuring the need for new county jail was handed to the commissioners Wednesday, showing that the projected 117-bed facility is not excessive in comparison to jails in other counties.

The report, by engineering firm Boarman Kroos Vogel (BKV) Group, also defended the projection of jail population the company had previously conducted for designing the new judicial center.

According to the research, the current jail has 38 beds, which means 1.1 beds per 1,000 people living in the county. The bed ratio is the lowest level among Minnesota counties that have a similar population size. For example, Benton County is 2.7, Morrison 2.7, and Goodhue 3.4.

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Most of the counties that have less than 2 beds per 1,000 plan to increase their bed numbers either by expanding a current jail or building a new facility.

The ratio in Freeborn County will become 3.5 with 117 beds.

The BKV Group pointed out even if the county took a high-range projection, the figure would still be moderate. The architect projected that the new jail could have 142 beds without adding new staff or creating any structural change. That means the bed ratio would be 4.3.

Those ratios are close to ones in other counties with a new facility. Nobles County, for example, which has a 113-bed brand-new jail that opened this year, is 5.5; and Douglas County, which expanded its jail from 60 to 138 beds in 1995, is 4.5.

The projection of inmate population has been questioned by Commissioner Dan Belshan. Belshan has been claiming that the projection should reflect a study by the National Institute of Corrections, which has not been completed. He has been also claiming that electronic home monitoring can significantly reduce the number of inmates. Commissioner Glen Mathiason has also been insisting that the county should study the jail needs further.