Rice County Sheriff Troy Dunn went before the Board of Commissioners meeting as a Committee of the Whole today and requested the approval of a jail study.  The study is needed because the Minnesota Department of Corrections, for the second straight year recommended the Rice County facility only be able to house prisoners for 90 days.

Dunn said the designation was made, "due to the lack of recreational space and programming."  The Sheriff said shortly after they received the DOC inspection report they received an email from the Department of Corrections saying the designation would begin November 1st of this year.

The designation means no inmates can be housed in Rice County beyond 90 days which Dunn pointed out will necessitate a major boost in transportation costs to other facilities not to mention the costs per day to house prisoners in those other facilities.  He anticipated the need to add another prisoner transport vehicle and additional staff.

The Sheriff requested the board to approve a jail study saying, "In my tenure here this would be the fourth jail study.  What we've done after each study is, we've, in my opinion, we put the minimum forward to meet the DOC's requirements so that we can keep operating as a full time facility.  I hate to say it but I think the band-aids have run out, we're stuck for space right now.  Our facility is 44 years old.  The DOC said 25 to 35 max for a jail facility.  So we're the second largest county in the southeast district and we have the third oldest jail."

County Attorney John Fossum took the opportunity to suggest to commissioners a possible justice center combination that would house the courts, his office and the jail in the same building.

Fossum said, "Our courthouse is at capacity, if not beyond.  In reality we should have five hearing rooms so that we could bring in judges from other counties and process more cases then we're able to at the moment.  My office has already expanded onto two floors and we will need room to grow."

He added, "Frankly if you put the jail and the courthouse in the same space you could save a lot money on transport costs and save a lot of money on security."

Fossum went on to point out the current courthouse was built in 1932 when Rice County had a population much less than today.

KDHL checked and the 1930 census for Rice County showed a population of 29,974 people and the 2018 Census Bureau estimate is 66,523.

Commissioners don't take action during their Committee meetings.  The matter will be brought before the board soon for more discussion.

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