A new county jail that was years in the making is nearly ready to open in Houston County, Minn., but officials are mulling whether it should be used at all, reports the Minneapolis Star-Tribune. Even though it cost tens of millions of dollars, letting it sit empty would save the money it would cost to staff it. The cells aren’t really needed, as falling crime rates and a jail-building boom coincided to produce an unprecedented surplus of jail beds in many of the state’s counties.
“You wouldn’t open a motel expecting 50 percent occupancy or less,” said Jack Miller, chairman of the board of commissioners in the southeastern Minnesota county. More than 3,000 cells stand empty on a given day, the new figures show — the equivalent of roughly the 70 smallest facilities of about 90 statewide.