The future of the Winona County Jail

The Winona County Jail will soon be forced to shut down by the Minnesota Department of Corrections because of its aging building.

But the Winona Jail Advisory Committee and the Winona county sheriff think they have a good plan going forward.

The Jail Advisory Committee studied four options: do nothing and transport inmates to neighboring county jails; build a 72-hour holding facility; build a 90-day jail; or build a jail that can house inmates for an entire year.

On Tuesday, they met with officials from neighboring counties to discuss different options, but the Winona County sheriff said it’s pretty clear what the county should do.

Sheriff Ron Ganrude doesn’t think transporting inmates to neighboring jails is the best idea.

“Every time you take a prisoner out of a secure jail to transport them anywhere, you’re running the risk of something happening,” Ganrude said.

In addition to being a safety concern, Ganrude said, it’s a logistical nightmare.

“We average five new arrests a day. That’s five trips we’d have to make to Caledonia or Wabasha a day. Those people also have to come back for court so that’s another five trips. We can’t transport males and females, we can’t transport juveniles with adults,” Ganrude said.

That is why he thinks the county should build a new jail that could hold inmates for an entire year.

“I think we need to build at least a 100-bed jail if not 120 for our future needs,” Ganrude said.

The current jail holds 70 inmates, but Ganrude says a new, bigger jail would be safer and could be run with about the same number of staff as the old jail.

“We want to build for the future,” Ganrude said.

The Jail Advisory Committee found the cost to transport inmates to surrounding jails for 20 years would be nearly the same as building a new facility. Both Ganrude and Winona County Administrator Ken Fritz say the biggest challenges are the looming deadline to replace the jail in 2021 and finding housing for juveniles.

“There’s also a need to deal with juveniles that comes into the mix and we want to discuss the capacities of the various counties. Regarding how to house and provide proper places for the juveniles,” Fritz said.

Despite the challenges, Ganrude is confident the Winona County Board will see building the new jail as the best option.

“I think we’ll eventually be able to convince the board to move forward with this,” Ganrude said.

The findings from the Jail Advisory Committee’s report will be presented to the Winona County Board next Tuesday.

All four options the committee looked at doing nothing but transporting inmates, building a 72-hour facility, building a 90-day facility or building a new jail that can house inmates for a year would cost between $100 million and a $110 million over a 20-year period.

The year-round jail the sheriff wants would cost $102 million over 20 years.

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