Women’s jail cells to open soon

Published 8:52 am Thursday, April 7, 2011

The Jail and Justice Center will soon house female inmates. -- Herald file photo

The female wing of the Mower County Jail and Justice Center is scheduled to open in the next week, but it may not be the only first for the new facility.

The jail, which opened to inmates last December, could one day house inmates from other counties.

Sheriff Terese Amazi

Because of recent budget cuts, a group of about 12 counties in southeast Minnesota is discussing ways to work together when it comes to jail populations. This may eventually lead to Mower County housing select groups of boarded inmates from other counties.

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“Any opportunity, we will take,” said Sheriff Terese Amazi.

However, the sheriff noted discussions are preliminary, so there are no concrete plans. It’s also possible Mower County could board select inmates in other counties.

The discussions largely focus on specific and typically small groups of inmates like females and inmates with physical or mental health needs. Rather than each county setting aside staff and space for such groups, County Coordinator Craig Oscarson said counties could pool their resources.

“Discussions like this are good, and it shows the public that we’re not trying to be silos, were trying to work together,” Oscarson said.

There are about 70 inmates in Mower County’s jail, though the facility has 128 beds. Under Department of Corrections guidelines, the county is only able to fill the jail to 88 percent capacity at current staffing levels.

Mower is not the only county with unused jail beds, as Oscarson said there are about 600 unused jail beds within the region, though some are left empty because of capacity limitations.

Though any action appears to be a long way off, Oscarson said it’s potentially a good way for counties to share services and reduce costs.