$50M in funding for new juvenile justice center approved by Minnehaha commissioners

The $50 million facility will be built on the current site in southern Sioux Falls.

Minnehaha County Juvenile Detention Center Director Jamie Gravett stands in the center's control room on Oct. 21, 2022.
John Hult / South Dakota Searchlight

SIOUX FALLS - Minnehaha County commissioners on Tuesday, Feb. 7, approved funding for a new Juvenile Justice Center, replacing the existing facility in southern Sioux Falls that was built 54 years ago.

The vote to build the $50 million facility was unanimous. The plans include increasing the number of beds from 46 to 64 on the current site at 4200 South West Avenue. It will be constructed in two phases.

County commissioners are still hoping the state legislature may approve a bill to help with the cost as the facility serves multiple counties and also takes in juveniles sent there by the state Department of Corrections, which would lower the cost to county taxpayers.

County Auditor Ben Kyte said they would finance the project through selling bonds to be paid over a 20-year period. The cost for an average $300,000 home in the county would be about $50 a year, he said.

The commissioners agreed the new facility was sorely needed to improve safety for the youth and the staff as well as to relieve congestion and meet the anticipated need for more beds over the next 20 years.


A hallway and secured room doors at the Minnehaha County Juvenile Center in Sioux Falls, as pictured on Oct. 21, 2022.
John Hult / South Dakota Searchlight

Commissioner Joe Kippley said the current facility is “overwhelming how underwhelming it is.”

He said there are “stark safety concerns” with the long hallway structure, which will be replaced with a pod setup for easier monitoring and safety.

Kippley said remodeling would be expensive as it’s estimated it could be $2 million just to replace security doors on the facility.

“It’s hard to argue against this,” he said.

Commission Chairman Jean Bender agreed as she said during the public meetings last fall there was “nobody in opposition” to the project.

Commissioner Gerald Beninga said the project has been discussed for about 10 years and hopefully would help improve putting youth on “a positive path in society.”

Expansion plans would mean more space for 16 counties, DOC

Beninga and Commissioner Dean Karsky both said they would like to see the state participate in the construction cost that would lower bills for county property owners. Karsky said about 25% of the placements on the facility are from “all over the state” and come through the Department of Corrections.

“That’s a large number,” Karsky said.


An additional 15 counties in the Sioux Falls area are partners with the JDC. About 60% of those counties support the new facility, which accounts for about 70% of the use, said Tyler Klatt, the assistant commission officer. The rest of those counties, he said, were waiting to see if the legislature would help with the cost or hadn’t responded.

The new daily rate paid by the partner counties would increase dramatically with the new building. The rate approved on Tuesday is $278 per day. That could jump to more than $400 next year.

Facility Director Jamie Gravett said they would be negotiating that price in the coming months and that the higher rate was a projection.

The first phase of construction will include new housing, intake, medical, kitchen and mechanical areas, Gravett said in an interview after the meeting. The old building would then be torn down and the courtroom and probation part of the project would be constructed. That part of the project also frees up space in the current county courthouse in downtown Sioux Falls.

Commissioners said they didn’t like approving a property tax increase and work on possibly lowering the need for the $50 million in bonding by using money in the county building fund or even doing it in more than one issuance.

The state share would help. Gravett said the current legislative bill being considered calls for the county to apply for any assistance. Thus, the final cost to county taxpayers is still flexible, Karsky said.

juvenile detention drawing 020723.png
Plans for a new Juvenile Detention Center in Sioux Falls. The Minnehaha County Commission approved spending $50 million to replace the existing facility on Tuesday, Feb. 7, 2023.

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