Moose Lake Star Gazette - Serving Carlton and Pine Counties Since 1895

By Dan Reed
Moose Lake Star-Gazette 

Deadline set for County Jail closure


February 20, 2020

A letter from the Minnesota Department of Corrections was received by Carlton County Sheriff Kelly Lake and County Coordinator Dennis Genereau setting a closure date for the Carlton County Jail on July 31, 2023.

Tim Thompson, Inspection and Enforcement Director of MN Corrections, addressed the regular meeting of the Carlton County Board on February 11, detailing numerous deficiencies in the present Carlton County Jail "impacting the safety and security of the facility, the staff, and the citizens of Carlton County."

Commissioner Tom Proulx commented, "I was surprised that this current letter is so harsh – why?"

"The building is inadequate with antiquated plumbing, lack of natural light, heating, security electronics, cooling, and overall poor construction," responded Director Thompson. "The facility is beyond the projected life expectancy . . . and lacks adequate recreation, programming and other adequate space. I commend the remarkable job the staff has done with providing program."

Sanctions, such as restricting the number of inmates housed at the Carlton County Jail, could be put in place if nothing is done. It was noted that although there had been an extensive study of options and funding for a new jail, it was pointed out that the County Board had not made a formal resolution to move ahead.

The current jail was constructed in the late 1970s when there were no strict rules and guidelines for an up-to-date facility. At that time a new jail was quickly constructed because the old jail had been condemned. Within two to three years the 24 bed facility was too small and the building was enlarged to house 48 inmates.

The life expectancy of a jail complex is 25-30 years and the Carlton County Jail is 40+ years old. The jail population has continued to change with more and more females incarcerated. Separate holding areas and programming facilities staffed with adequate female officers has been a difficult situation to resolve in the current site. It is the conclusion of the Department of Corrections that there are no other options to increase the operational life of the current Jail or provide the services needed in the current inadequate space.

Commissioner Gary Peterson asked, "If there is a delay of the implementation of the ½% sales tax, can you extend our time?"

"There is a precedent that if the County is close to completing the facility in good faith that extensions have been granted," Thompson explained. "The process to build the jail must focus on doing it right and quickly."

It was noted that more officers would have to be hired for the new complex. Genereau stated that one more janitor would be hired.

A question came from those attending the meeting asking if the new jail would provide deluxe housing for the inmates. Thompson noted that it is not an issue of making the inmates more comfortable. Most people incarcerated in the local jail will eventually return to their neighborhoods. Training and programming while people are incarcerated insures their success returning to the community and, in the end, helps make our local community residents safer.

In other business, Zoning and Environmental Services Administrator Heather Cunningham explained that of over $18 million charged as recycling fees at transfer stations throughout the State of Minnesota only $4 million is directed back to the local Environmental Services.

"The excess money goes other places and not for keeping recycling costs lower," explained Cunningham. "I would like to draft a letter of my concerns on this issue to the State of Minnesota agencies in control and see if this can be remedied." The Board gave their support and asked for the letter to be funneled through them for contacting the AMC and our legislative representatives.

Commissioner Peterson asked that the list of township and city governments be brought up to date and published on the County website. Auditor Korteum said she would handle that task.

Auditor Korteum requested that a prominent article be run in local papers in March to encourage people to file for their property tax refund. Participation in that program has been lukewarm and many more Carlton County property owners could receive a refund.


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