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Kandiyohi County Jail improves safety for inmates and deputies

The Kandiyohi County Board of Commissioners received a tour of the recently completed improvements at the county jail, including an expanded booking area and remodeled medical facilities. The changes will increase security and efficiency of movement in the facility.

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The Kandiyohi County Board of Commissioners went on a tour of the newly renovated Kandiyohi County Jail on Aug. 3, 2021. The project expanded the booking area, added new holding cells and increased the medical facilities at the jail. Shelby Lindrud / West Central Tribune

WILLMAR — After several months of construction and an estimated budget of $2.6 million, the expansion project at the Kandiyohi County Jail has been completed. The Kandiyohi County Board of Commissioners was taken on a tour of the improvements following its meeting last Tuesday.

"Some huge improvements, good improvements," said Kandiyohi County Sheriff Eric Holien of the changes made to the facility.

Jail Administrator Captain Matt Akerson led the tour, pointing out everything that was done.

Like for most people who find themselves on the inside of the jail , the tour began at booking. This is where new inmates are processed and where those being released complete their final bit of paperwork before walking out the door.

Prior to the project, space in booking was tight due in part to it being a high-traffic area; it was a main thoroughfare around the jail.

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"There was one spot for one booking officer to work," Akerson said. "It got to be a real funnel. All of the traffic went through booking."

Now there can be up to six booking officers working at one time. The main booking station is situated around a corner from the main walkway, keeping new arrivals away from any current inmates that might be coming through.

Just off of that main station is the intoxicator room, where processing for possible DUI/DWI cases are completed. Results of those tests can be shuttled between the two areas via a pass-through drawer in the wall.

The improvement project also added three additional holding cells, plus a transfer cell that is directly connected to the sally port, where new inmates are dropped off.

Holding cells are used for inmates still waiting to be put into the larger residential pods, but can also house those people undergoing mental health evaluations or those who for various reasons cannot be housed with the larger jail population.

There is also a new cell that can be used for longer stays; it includes a small day room where inmates can watch television, take phone calls and do a lot of what is available in the larger residential pods. There is also a skylight to provide natural light.

"That is a new Department of Corrections requirement," Akerson said.

Akerson explained this specific cell can house people who can have a bit more freedom than what a holding cell provides but who still need to be kept away from the larger population. This would include juveniles who are being treated as adults or transgender inmates.

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The holding cells are close to the expanded medical facilities of the jail. Before the project, the jail only had one exam room. Now there are two. The project also made it possible for the jail to find a larger space for the dentist when they make their calls.

Having these expanded facilities make it possible for more care to be completed in the jail instead of having to take inmates out into the community.

"It is cheaper than sending them out into the community," Akerson said. "When inmates are here, they are secured."

Another big piece of the project is the reconfigured sally port, a large indoor garage where vehicles drop off and pick up inmates. The new one is large enough to allow a coach bus to come in and out. There is also a new holding room. Inmates are placed in the holding room while waiting to be transported to court or other places.

The jail improvement project has been in the works for nearly two years . The county hired architects Klein McCarthy back in October 2019 and the design was approved in May 2020. Breitbach Construction of Elrosa was hired in July 2020 as the contractor with the low bid of $2,406,000.

Everything in the project, even down to the design of the booking desk, was planned carefully. With it now completed, the hope is it will help the jail do its job even better and safer than before.

"A lot of this planning and doing some of these projects is about risk mitigation in our facility," Holien said.

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Kandiyohi County Jail Administrator, Captain Mike Akerson, shows the county commissioners one of the new cells. Shelby Lindrud / West Central Tribune

Shelby Lindrud is a reporter with the West Central Tribune of Willmar. Her focus areas are arts and entertainment, agriculture, features writing and the Kandiyohi County Board.

She can be reached via email slindrud@wctrib.com or direct 320-214-4373.


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