Editorial: Comparison suggests jail needs are real

Published 12:00 am Tuesday, May 7, 2002

A comparison to other counties in Minnesota suggests that Freeborn County’s plans for a new jail do not plan for too large a facility; in fact, when weighed as a proportion of the number of beds to the county’s population, the new jail would be smaller than those built in other nearby counties.

The information, provided by the design firm that is working on the county’s plans, shows that Freeborn County currently has only 1.1 jail beds per 1,000 people in the county. Most other counties that have less than 2 beds per 1,000 are planning to expand. Nobles County’s new facility will make its proportion 5.5 per 1,000 and Douglas County’s will be 4.5 per 1,000.

While these kind of numbers speak about what others are doing while not directly addressing our county’s needs, the comparison indicates that the county’s plans for a new jail are not excessive. If other counties are planning for a higher proportion of jail beds to population than Freeborn County, it makes sense that this county’s projections are a reasonably good estimate of what will be needed. Crime rates are generally similar in rural areas of the state, with drug crimes increasing and more people being sentenced to time in jail. Even though Freeborn County’s population is not growing much, more of its residents are going to jail, and that trend is not unique to this county.

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The fact is that we can never know exactly what jail populations will do in the future. However, it is a safe bet that they will continue to rise. Even now, many people sit on a waiting list to serve their time in jail. Other counties have planned for a continually rising jail population, and it seems prudent that Freeborn County is doing the same.