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$11 million dollar Pennington County Jail opens

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Thief River Falls, MN (WDAY-TV) --  Inmates are moving tonight.

They're set to sleep in a new $11-million dollar jail.

"About 90 inmates are getting ready to move into cells like this one at the jail in Thief River Falls. It's going to nearly double the capacity of the jail and make it safer for those inmates."

The Pennington County Jail --

"The people that are going to be here are going to typically be your lesser crimes," says Ray Kuznia, Pennington County Sheriff.

--is in the middle of a major makeover.

"As far as the security systems that we're going to have, the air quality that we're going to have, the lighting that we'll have," says Betty Coauette, Transition Coordinator and Jail Sergeant.

The old jail was built in the 70s.

Jail staff says the cost to make it work in the future is too high.

"The air quality the heating and the cooling and the plumbing all the infrastructure has just gotten to where it's no longer cost effective to fix it," says Betty.

And with a growing population in town -- the 40 inmate capacity facility was turning into a money pit.

Forcing deputies to drive inmates to jails four hours away.  

"Last year we spent about $500,000 transporting them out. Having them away from Pennington County. So it's very costly to keep inmates out," says Ray.

WDAY News has learned about 80 percent of the population struggles with mental health and addiction.

"Whether they stole something because of their drug addiction, they're trying to get their next fix," says Ray.

The new $12-million correctional center isn't just designed to keep people in.

By helping inmates get their GED and learn new skills -- the sheriff is hoping it'll help to keep some of them out.

"We want to stop the revolving door for them coming back here," says Ray.

With a recreation area, transitional housing and new courthouse also on the way -- the way justice is handed down is changing.

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