Brown County seeks state funding for regional jail

The regional jail is intended to solve the capacity issues faced by the current Brown County jail, which can hold 48 inmates.
Published: Jun. 21, 2022 at 4:59 PM CDT
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ABERDEEN, S.D. (Dakota News Now) - The Brown County Commission purchased a building on Industrial Avenue on the northeast side of Aberdeen for $4.5 million earlier this spring, but they’ll be looking to the state to fund the renovation costs to turn it into a regional jail.

The regional jail is intended to solve the capacity issues faced by the current Brown County jail, which can hold 48 inmates.

”We’re usually exceeding that amount. It can be a couple over, it can be six or eight over, it just depends on the day,” said Brown County Chief Deputy Dave Lunzman.

Lunzman says surrounding counties are facing similar issues, and are calling Brown County for help.

”Anybody that’s getting crowded is always calling. Of course, the federal system is calling us every single day asking for room too,” said Lunzman.

Those counties would be able to utilize the regional jail as well, but they’re being asked to pitch in for the renovation funding too, which could cost up to $25 million.

The problem is those counties might not have the funds to help either.

”Until it comes down to the day that they either have to decide to give us money or not, I don’t think anybody is going to know, including themselves, because they’re going to have to dig deep just like we’re going to have to dig deep,” said Lunzman.

The other option is funding from the state.

A Study Committee on Regional Jails and State Correctional Plans has $70 million to possibly allocate for projects like the regional jail, but the funding is available to other projects and current facilities in the state as well.

Of the 15 members on the study, three are from Brown County. Lunzman says the sheriff’s office has been heavily involved with the study committee.

”We’re the ones that will run it afterwards, so we have to be involved,” said Lunzman.

The regional jail is nearly 170,000 square feet and could triple the amount of beds available for inmates in Brown County. That space could also provide room for more inmate programs.

“There are so many possibilities out there that we do not have here. We’ve run out of space for other programs. Even for church sometimes, it gets crowded here. There, we would have the opportunity to do more things for inmates. It’s easily accessible. It’s kind of outside of the city limits. The building itself gives us a lot of room to spread out. We’re not going to be cramped anymore. It’s all linear instead of vertical. We can hopefully get a courtroom in there, so we can keep everything in one building,” said Lunzman.

The Brown County Commission will need to generate 40% of funds, or $12 million, by April 1st of 2023. If they do not succeed, they will sell the building on Industrial Ave.

The summer study will be coming to Aberdeen to inspect the current jail and the possible new regional jail on July 20th.

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