From: Jayston Seeling
During the County Board meeting on April 13, I asked a simple question: If not now, when? I went on to explain: “I keep hearing the message presented that to move away from jails, things need to change, not only in Winona, but nationwide. When do we plan on taking the steps and making those changes? In another 20 years when this new proposed jail needs replacing, and it is no longer the responsibility of all the people sitting here today?”
The board chose to do just that by making the decision to fund a jail much larger than what is needed in our county. Commissioner Meyer called on everyone in the room to spend the next 25 years (the expected lifespan of the new jail) creating a better America to make jails obsolete – “So we do not have to build another one.”
She claimed that she was struggling with the decision to approve the jail but justified her decision by saying that it is her job to provide a “suitable and sufficient jail” as required by Minnesota Statute 373.05. Her fellow commissioners could not come to a consensus on the interpretation of the statute. If she actually wants to bring change, why is she choosing to interpret it that way?
It was inappropriate for Commissioner Meyer to center her emotions on having to make a decision about the jail while describing the story of a man on suicide watch living in abhorrent conditions of the current jail. I am sure the new basketball hoops and aesthetically pleasing architecture of their new, state-of-the-art cages will alleviate the mental hardships of being locked in a cage.
Those who support this new jail are choosing to throw more resources into carceral systems. They are choosing to cover up problems, not focus on the root cause and prevent them. Amidst the largest national movement to move away from carceral systems, Winona is building a $25-million jail.
I believe we can build a better Winona by divesting from carceral systems and investing in our community. If not now, when?