Itasca County Jail Could Close If It Doesn’t Undergo Major Renovations

GRAND RAPIDS, Minn. –  After receiving a sunset letter back in 2018 from the Department of Corrections, the jail will now be closed in September of 2021 if major changes are not made.

“Our occupancy right now is anywhere between 100-120,” Itasca County Sheriff, Victor Williams says.

The issue of overpopulation has caused the jail to send dozens of inmates from this jail to other area jails instead.

“Just because the space says we can have that 107 marks, the ratio of correction officer to inmate doesn’t allow us to fulfill that space need,” Williams says.

So, a special jail task force was established to collect information for the Itasca county board.

What they found was a need for a new facility.

“Nobody woke up one day and said let’s build a new jail,” Itasca County Administrator, Brett Skyles says.

But the cost associated with building this new facility would be in the 68-70 million dollar range.

“As you look long term, the actual construction costs of this jail would be less than 20 percent. Long term it’s going to be staffing, facilities and everything that goes with the building,” Skyles says.

This new jail would follow with the correct DOC guidelines.

“There’s always a changing model that’s an acceptable form of corrections,” Williams says.

Itasca County Sheriff Vic Williams says unlike the current jail, the new setup would be safer for the high amount of traffic in the jail for both inmates and officers alike.

“Not only for our failing facilities and our abilities to accommodate them. It’s the only linear style jail that the DOC is doing away with,” Williams says.

Public input on the project is now encouraged, and officials hope to put the decision to fund it to a final vote in November.

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