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Jail overcrowding becoming a real issue in Minnehaha County

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Sioux Falls, S.D. (KELO-AM) - With a healthy growth of a community like Sioux Falls comes crime and many of the offenders need to be in jail as opposed to an alternative means to incarceration.  As a result of higher crime, jails in Minnehaha County are becoming overcrowded and this is an issue that needs to be dealt with immediately. 

“The numbers of people in jail are climbing and we are trying to resolve these issues in a very public way,” said Mike Milstead, Minnehaha County Sherriff.  “Last winter we asked the National Institute of Corrections to do an assessment of facilities; particularly the old Elks Club facility.  The report came out with the county needs that indicated that facility is aging and has numerous issues.”

Milstead said the real estate is really good with four acres on a public golf course and to sell is one option when it’s time to locate at a new facility.  I encourage the KELO listeners to go to our website and look at these issues so they realize when you crunch the numbers; we are running out of space. 

“When we look at alternative means to incarceration, the more low-risk offenders that we can put into the community work and pay taxes saves us time and money,” said Milstead.  “If we weren’t able to move these people out of jail in the numbers we have been seeing, we would really be in a jam.  Our real need is a facility for those people we can’t let out into the community for the safety of citizens and law enforcement officers.” 

Milstead said that the assessment indicated that there were too many low risk offender beds and many of the higher risk offenders needed to be in real jail cells.  We are looking into alternatives such as building a new facility up by the state prison or knocking on the doors of neighboring counties and tell them we can serve as a regional jail if they help pay for the costs of a new facility.

“We are looking to get out of the in-custody work release programs,” said Milstead.  “We used to be in the hundreds and now we are down into the thirties.  It works better to monitor them electronically rather than sending them out in the communities, then searching them and dealing with contraband issues when they return at the end of the day.”

Milstead said he loves the growth in the community, but for instance the growth in the woman’s jail has grown significantly.  Drug crimes have grown recently as a result of the growth in crime.  We get a lot of hardened criminals who first go through the county jail and are sitting there with un-sentenced inmates who are there because their bonds are too high to let them go or they are too dangerous to be back into the community.  Even though they are destined for the state penitentiary, they have to sit in the county jail until they are sentenced.

“I can only recommend what can be done and where we need to build, but it’s all in the hands of the County Commission,” said Milstead.  “By next winter, we are going to need to decide what we are going to do or I will have to go back to our neighboring counties and tell them we need the bed space for our own prisoners.  We have a lot of federal prisoners in our jail which is a good deal because it helps offset our costs, and it helps our neighboring counties not to have to build their own facilities.”

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