Rice County Attorney John Fossum told KDHL AM Minnesota listeners today a new jail facility would be more efficient in the same building with courts.

The Minnesota State Jail Standards Board has told Rice County the jail is not in compliance with various standards.  That's prompted the county to conduct a jail study that will examine the cost difference between retaining and improving what exists and building something new.

The Rice County Courthouse is on the National Register of Historic Places.  It was constructed in 1932.

Fossum says, "I love this building.  I've been working here off an on for 25 years and I think there's a lot to like about it, but the other thing is if you look upstairs there are two jury trial courtrooms.  When the courthouse was built in 1932 that was one big district courtroom. It has been divided in half to make the second courtroom.  We have jury boxes where we would have a hard time seating people anymore.  Certainly it's not big enough to allow for proper social distancing which is why we put a courtroom across the street that we can use in the meantime.

"The question will be, Fossum continued, "when things return to a more normal functioning will we be able to continue to try cases here or will we need to look at something else."

"It would be terrible to lose this building but there could be other uses for it as well."

I suggested the current practice of escorting prisoners from jail to the courthouse for hearings seems an inefficient use of law enforcement personnel time.

Fossum said a single facility with both the courts and jail together would, "Probably be a better idea.  It's what has happened in Le Sueur County and Dodge County and Dakota County.  A lot of our neighbors have moved to this idea of just having one big building where everything happens.  That would be my preference."

I'm sure we will visit with Rice County Sheriff Troy Dunn about this topic when the jail study is completed.

You can listen to the show below.

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