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Wabasha County opens new jail

The recently constructed Wabasha County Justice Center opened its new Jail Wednesday. -- R-E photo by Jon Swedien

WABASHA - County officials capped a $21 million project here Wednesday with the opening of a new jail.

Now, the Wabasha County Sheriff's Office is transferring its inmates from Red Wing, where they've been held for two and a half years, to the county's newly built justice center.

The Minnesota Department of Corrections shut down Wabasha County's old jail in 2007 after inspectors deemed the facility unfit.

"It had a lot to do with safety concerns for the staff and inmates," Sheriff Rodney Bartsh said.

Built in 1916, it was the second-oldest jail in the state when it closed, according to Bartsh.

Between 2007 and now, Wabasha County's inmates were boarded in the Goodhue County jail, an arrangement that made money for Goodhue County.

Goodhue County Sheriff Dean Albers said he isn't too concerned about the loss of inmates. He noted Goodhue County still houses inmates from other jurisdictions and said there's a possibility new legislation will make it legal for the county to board inmates from Wisconsin.

So far deputies have moved 12 of Wabasha County's inmates into the new facility and will transfer the remaining eight in the coming days.

The new jail has 38 cells and could house up to 72 inmates, Bartsh said. Right now, however, the jail only has staff to accomodate 40 inmates.

Bartsh said his department intends to board inmates for other jurisdictions, similar to what Goodhue County does.

The jail is the last part of the $21 million justice center to open. The facility also houses courtrooms and court administration, county attorney's office and the sheriff's staff. Bartsh said his department moved into the building last November.

The jail and the courthouse used to be in different buildings, Bartsh said. He said having them under one roof is a much better setup.

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