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Kandiyohi County Jail licensed for full capacity starting Sept. 1 to accommodate more state prisoners

The exterior of the Kandiyohi County Jail in Willmar is shown July 30. A pod in the jail that had gone unused for about three years will be reopened Sept. 1 to accommodate an expected increase in the number of state prisoners housed there under a contract with the state Department of Corrections. Four new corrections officers will be hired as well. (Tribune photo by Rand Middleton)

WILLMAR –– After sitting empty for about three years, an unused pod in the Kandiyohi County Jail will be reopened Sept.1, staffed with four new employees and ready for a new batch of prisoners from the state.

Under a new contract with the state Department of Corrections, Kandiyohi County could house up to 60 prisoners here. The current DOC population in the local jail is already at about 40.

In order to be able to house the additional 20 prisoners, the county had to increase the number of staff, make more beds available and restore its license as a 190-bed jail.

“That’s what the jail is built for –– 190 beds,” said Sheriff Dan Hartog.

He is currently in the process of hiring four corrections officers from a field of about 40 candidates.

Hartog said he expects to have them hired and trained by Sept. 1.

County Administrat or Larry Kleindl said hiring a new employee to work at the jail will cost the county about $40,000 in salary and benefits.

At $55 a day for housing a DOC prisoner, it’s estimated the new contract will generate $1.2 million, which easily offsets the expenses.

“That pays for the extra work and plus,” said Kleindl, adding that there’s the potential for the state to send more than 60 prisoners to the county jail.

“It’s definitely a good use of our space,” he said.

Hartog said he does not expect any major changes in how the jail will operate with the additional state prisoners.

He said staff will just be a little busier. “The activity will pick up with the daily feeding, medications, the checks, that type of thing. Just more busy work that way,” he said.

Even with hiring four new employees to work at the jail, the total number of officers will still be less than it was three years ago, when the state pulled its prisoners out of the county jail.

From 2003 to 2011, the county had been a frequent boarding spot for state prisoners, which typically generated $850,000 a year in revenue.

When the Department of Corrections ended its contract in 2011, the county laid off eight corrections officers. Shortly afterward, six officers retired.

With a new contract in hand, the county agreed recently to start adding staff back.

Increasing the jail license back up to 190 beds will not only generate new revenue with state prisoners, but it will also give the county flexibility to have space if there is a large influx of local prisoners.

That happened recently when local law enforcement arrested about 25 people in a widespread drug bust and it could happen again in the future.

“If we have a spike in the population, we would have no issue with housing them,” Hartog said. “We have room to work with.”

Carolyn Lange

A reporter for more than 30 years, Carolyn Lange covers regional news with the West Central Tribune.

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