Itasca County Commissioners Vote To Not Purchase Land For County Jail
Itasca County Commissioners met Tuesday to vote on a land purchase for a new jail. The boardroom at the Itasca County Courthouse was packed as many people took to the podium to voice their frustration to the County Board on the possibility of purchasing land for the proposed justice center.
“Right now, I don’t agree with the purchasing of the land and such until all options have been presented and to the public as well as to the County Board up front,” a member of the community said.
“The jail itself is overpriced, I have looked at countless other projects done … in Minnesota that have been done for under $20 million,” added another community member.
The jail task force at Itasca County has looked at many different jail options as a result of a 2017 inspection. A letter from the Minnesota Department of Corrections said that there were 15 mandatory rules that were not in compliance. On November 5, 2019, the jail task force made a final recommendation to the commissioners. They examined their options, researched the pros, cons, and cost factors of each option. One of the solutions was a land purchase that would secure a site for a green space build if needed.
“$129,000-some. We took a vote on this about a month ago, one member missing, we had tie vote at 2-2. We brought it back up today flushed it out, ran it up the flag pole and it failed on a 3-2 vote,” Itasca County Commissioner Chair Davin Tinquist said.
Some of the problems that the facility is facing include inadequate housing space and staffing deficiencies. Itasca County Commissioner says the jail task force did everything right even though there has been doubt in the community.
“There’s a lot that goes into this puzzle, it’s not simply, ‘can you go up another story or can we get enough parking spots over here on this lot or can we buy out this block’ – it all has to do with staffing, and moving prisoners and tying in with the courts to probation. It’s a complicated puzzle.”
The Itasca County Jail has been in operation for around 35 years with an expansion in 1998. The National Institute of Correction states that the average life expectancy of a 24-hour operating jail is 20 to 30 years.
The Department of Corrections provided the Itasca County Jail with a “Sunset Authorization,” meaning the facility will no longer be authorized to hold persons within it past a certain point. That date is set September 1, 2021.