Minnehaha County creates Criminal Advisory Committee - KSFY News - Sioux Falls, SD News, Weather, Sports

Minnehaha County creates Criminal Advisory Committee for Work Release Center

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During the last legislative session, South Dakota lawmakers passed criminal reform legislation proposed by Governor Daugaard's Criminal Justice Initiative. 

Wednesday, the Minnehaha County Commission announced that they have created their own Criminal Justice Advisory Committee to look into some future issues with the Work Release Center in Sioux Falls. 

The Work Release Center houses non-violent, low-risk inmates from the County Jail system and the Department of Corrections.  Many inmates in the center are part of the work release program, going to a regular job in the morning and coming back to the center at night.  

One of the issues the committee will be addressing is the facility itself. 

"It was designed as an elks club, its served the county well for 20 years but its full and the building is aging," said Minnehaha County Sheriff Mike Milstead. 

The Department of Justice recently reviewed the building and pointed out some problem areas. 

"The housing areas are too large, you go through a boiler room to get to one of the housing units," said Milstead. 

This new committee may also consider relocating the facility. 

"Our aging facility is on four and a half acres across the street from the new events center on a golf course and so the value of that property went up at the same time," said Milstead. 

Now that the criminal justice reform bill will be implemented, the county is also preparing to deal with more inmates. 

"There may be a shift of some additional prisoners to the county level community corrections, so we need to be prepared for that as well," said Milstead. 

"Early this morning we had 154 inmates out here; that's a pretty manageable number, but if we start filling a facility too full, you run into more problems," said Minnehaha County's Warden, Jeff Gromer. 

Gromer says finding enough beds is one issue, but the main concern are the behavioral problems that can arise from putting too many inmates in a confined space. 

It's why the committee may consider building a new facility. 

"Correctional facilities are expensive; however, what we're talking about would be dormitory housing for low risk offenders—that's the least expensive type of housing for inmates. 

But the committee will also be looking into some alternatives to incarceration. 

"We're looking at some other work crew programs where we might have inmates work on community service but not be housed in the facility, we're expanding some of our electronic monitoring options for alternatives to incarceration for low-risk offenders," said Milstead. 

Sheriff Milstead says this committee will allow for public input throughout the decision process; he hopes to have a plan for the future of the center by next year.

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