Community touring new Winona County Jail after years of sending inmates elsewhere

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(ABC 6 News) – It’s been nearly five years since the Winona County Jail was forced to shut down in 2018 after failing to meet modern safety codes and now a new one is ready to take it’s place.

Sunday, law enforcement invited the community to check out the county’s new jail.

“It’s a huge step we’ve been needing for a long time,” Judy Gilow said.

For years, Winona County has been operating without a jail, forcing officials to ship inmates to other facilities at a high price.

“Most of them are down in Houston County, but we have them in Wabasha County, Goodhue County, Olmsted County, our inmates are housed all over the state,” Winona County Sheriff Ron Ganrude said.

With the new facility, all of that is about to change.

“We’ll be able to do programming here which our inmates didn’t have for the last two years, it means a lot,” Sheriff Ganrude said.

It’s a new world for inmates as the new jail will have several programs targeted toward improving their well-being.

The amenities include a library, basketball gym, and rooms to hold GED classes.

There were only 38 beds in the old jail but now around 80 inmates can be housed at one time.

For the first time, the public was invited to check out the booking area, housing units, and the jail kitchen.

Photos and videos were not allowed to be taken.

The new jail is costing the county around $28 million, but officials say they are hoping to get funding through state bonds.

In the meantime, they’re focused on making sure everyone is prepared when the jail opens.

“We have to make sure everything is working, every door, every lock, every light, everything, and we’re not there yet,” Sheriff Ganrude said.

The next step is for them to transfer their inmates from the neighboring counties to the Winona County Jail.

They hope to have it up and running in the next couple of weeks.