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Redwood Falls Gazette
  • A warm place to stay: 1895 jail and sheriff’s residence torn down

  • Madonna (Bestick) Baune, daughter of the former sheriff, said of the building town town last week, “I’ve got 20 years of good memories of that building. There were a few tears shed when I watched them tearing it down. I saw Dad’s office there for a minute, then it was knocked over.”
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  • The first Redwood County sheriff’s office and jail, dating back to the 1970s, was a two-room, all wood structure set up on the lot approximately at the alley behind Cornerstone Church. It was restored about a dozen years ago, and can now be seen behind the Redwood County museum. By the early 1890s, the original wooden jail was falling apart, and the county had to resort to sending prisoners to New Ulm, at considerable expense. An 1894 Redwood Gazette editorial observed the county was spending so much money sending prisoners to New Ulm that a new jail in Redwood Falls would pay for itself in just a couple years. On May 2, 1894, the county commissioners voted to build a new Redwood County jail, and the final building was finished by Feb. 21. It was state of the art for the time, with its own indoor plumbing and heating even for the prisoners. Instead of just having an office for the sheriff, the upper floors were large enough for the sheriff to live along with his family. In 1899, James Jackson, secretary of the state board of corrections, visited, and noted there was no dividing wall between cells to keep the hardened criminals from corrupting the younger prisoners. Said Jackson, “There is nothing worse for a young man or boy, who has been placed under arrest charged with some minor offense, than to put him in jail with a lot of hardened criminals, who make him that society is against him....” Jackson also insisted the prisoners not be allowed to read “light, trashy matter”, or bring playing cards or other forms of amusement into the jail. A 1908 state inspection of the jail stated, “...the prisoners are fed plenty of bread, butter, meat, vegetables, coffee and tea. This dietary is furnished at a cost of 57 cents a day. “...the county furnishes the underclothing for the prisoners when necessary, and that the underclothing is changed weekly. The bedding is also washed once a week....” There were 11 cells in the building, six set aside for men, and five for women. The cells came in two sizes: 6x7 feet, and 8x8 feet. On the rare occasions when children were jailed, they were kept in the womens’ cells. The jail was still being used in 1978, when state inspectors labeled it one of the worst in the state. The next year, its status was changed from a 30-day lockup to a 72-hour holding facility. Once again, the problem of cost came up. Offenders sentenced to more than three days had to be shipped to other counties. A new Redwood County jail was dedicated in Dec. 1982. Vince Bestick was sheriff from 1967 until 1979. His was the last family to live in the old sheriff’s residence part before the new law enforcement center was built. His daughter Madonna (Bestick) Baune was married by the time her family moved into the jail, and never lived in the building itself. Baune said, “The basement was horrible. The jail was behind Dad’s office, and I was never allowed to go past that (to where the prisoners were). “For 20 years, Mom did all the cooking for the prisoners, and they ate before we did. If there were three prisoners, when Mom was making dinner for the family she would just make enough for three more people. “Then, if the officers brought in another three prisoners, guess who would go hungry? My brothers would eat peanut butter sandwiches. The prisoners always came first.” Baune also noticed that some prisoners seemed to use the prison as their winter getaway. “They’d commit some crime in November, and by the time their case wound its way through the courts and they’d served their sentences, they’d gotten two months of home cooked meals and a warm place to stay.” Nevertheless, she said, “I’ve got 20 years of good memories of that building. There were a few tears shed when I watched them tearing it down. I saw Dad’s office there for a minute, then it was knocked over.”

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