St. Louis County office buildings will be closed Monday, May 27, in observance of Memorial Day.

Jail History


About the St. Louis County Jail:

  • Located on 26 acres between Arrowhead and Swan Lake Roads in Duluth, MN
  • Has been in operation since 1995
  • Designed to house up to 192 pretrial and sentenced inmates
  • Operates under the Direct Supervision Management Principle—whereby an officer is in the housing unit with inmates at all times, supervising the detainees. 
  • The jail is open 24 hours a day, 365 days a year. 
  • Responsible for the processing of all prisoners.  This includes and is not limited to booking, fingerprinting, photographing,  feeding,  issuing clothing and personal items and physically monitoring the prisoner while they are in our facility. The St. Louis County Corrections Officers use an automated fingerprinting system that provides an effective way of capturing a person's fingerprints, without the use of ink.

Virginia and Hibbing Lock ups:

The jail division is also responsible for operating the Virginia and Hibbing Lock ups which are Class I Jails used to confine prisoners for up to 72 hours excluding weekends and holidays. 

  • The Virginia lock-up is a 12 bed, 72-hour holding facility. 
  • The Hibbing lock-up is an 8-bed, 72-hour holding facility. 
  • Both of these facilities are located in the respective courthouses.

The Jail is dedicated to the concept of Direct Supervision and adhere to the following principles:

  • The safety of public, staff and inmates is paramount.
  • They recognize that their staff is their greatest resource and assist them in attaining a successful and rewarding career.
  • The provide training that is beneficial to their staff and those interested in the field of corrections.
  • They create an atmosphere that encourages positive behavior and the integration of responsible individuals who are returning to the community.
  • All persons are held accountable for their behavior.
  • They are committed to the preservation of basic human rights and the dignity of public, staff and inmates.
  • They operate in a fiscally responsible manner and are ever mindful of the needs of the citizens of St. Louis County.

1979 Jail Population

Inmates Booked

A total of 2,127 inmates were booked into the St. Louis County Jail:

  • Male prisoners booked: 1,868
  • Female prisoners booked: 183
  • Huber prisoners booked: 76

The daily average population was 87.9.  The highest count reached during the year was 116 and the lowest was a count of 69.  This is a five percent increase over 1978.

1941 Prisoner Cost

Sheriff's Fund

The Duluth Herald newspaper reported the sheriff's fund in 1941 at $73,545.00.  The sheriff was quoted about how it used to cost 6 1/2 centers per meal for prisoners, but by 1941 it had increased to 9 cents a meal.

1923 Jail

1923 Jail

1923 County Jail under construction

St. Louis County Jail - 1923

The front side of the old jail featured the following granite engraved inscription which ran across the entire 114 foot frieze near the top of the building:
“The great privilege is given to all to develop strength of character, to lead clean and honest lives, to render diligent and worthy service, to help others and to be loyal citizens of the republic and obedient to its laws.”

The county jail was built on 2nd Street in Duluth in 1923.  It was designed by the Duluth firm of Abraham Holstead and William J. Sullivan, and is in the Classical style of gray granite with lions' head motifs.  The jail held prisoners until 1995 when a new jail located at 4334 Haines Road opened.  The jail building on 2nd street was still in use by the St. Louis County Sheriff's Records Division, Investigations Division, Photo Lab and ID Bureau until 2007.

March 4, 1927  -  Mrs. R. N. Marble appeared, and spoke relative to the appointment of a woman deputy sheriff, and the need for a full time matron at the county jail.
Source:  Official Proceedings of the Board of County Commissioners – St. Louis County 1927

1907 Jail Interior Photos


1898 County Jail

Jail Management

In a paper on county jails, Wm C. Sargent, of St. Louis county, criticized the method of construction and management, and concluded with a strong argument in favor of district jails under state control.

Source: The Charities Review, 1898

1891 Prisoner Boarding

(H.F. No. 425.)


Be it enacted by the Legislature of the State of Minnesota:

SECTION 1. That the sheriff of St. Louis county shall be allowed the sum of three dollars and fifty cents ($3.50) per week for boarding prisoners confined in the common jail of said county, which said sum shall include the washing for said prisoners while so  confined; and said sheriff shall receive no other compensation, directly or indirectly, for boarding prisoners required by law to be received by him in said jail.

SEC. 2. All acts or parts of acts conflicting with this act are hereby repealed.

SEC. 3. This act shall take effect and be in force from and after its passage.
Approved March 16, 1891.

Source: Special Laws of the State of Minnesota, Passed During the Twenty-Seventh Session of the State Legislature, Commencing January Eighth, One Thousand Eight Hundred and Ninety-One.

1890 Jail

Line Drawing
Source: excerpt from the Fourth Biennial Report – State Board of Corrections and Charities – dated October 31, 1890

Floor Plan
Source: excerpt from the Fourth Biennial Report – State Board of Corrections and Charities – dated October 31, 1890

Source: Images of America Duluth Minnesota by Maryanne C. Norton and Sheldon T. Aubut

  • Design: In 1889, Oliver Traphagen designed the red brick county jail that also held the sheriff's living quarters.  The jail was located at 614 East Third Street.  The Sheriff and his family lived in the front section of the building and the rear held cells.  The Sheriff's wife cooked meals for the prisoners.  (Source: Images of America Duluth Minnesota by Maryanne C. Norton and Sheldon T. Aubut)
  • Last legal hanging:  The old building's most infamous use was in 1903, as the site of the last legal hanging in the State of Minnesota.  Capital punishment was outlawed in the state in 1911.  Charles E. L. Henderson was hanged in Judge Cant's court room for killing his mistress Ida McCormick on the night of June 21, 1902.  The attending sheriff at the trial and hanging was Sheriff W.W. Butchart. 

Management of County Jails  - 1894 Jail Rules

By Paul Sharvey, Sheriff of St. Louis County

The proper management of a county jail depends somewhat upon the conditions by which the sheriff is surrounded and the cooperation of certain officials, such as county commissioners and district judges.

The following are the rules in force in our county:

  1. When a person is taken into custody he will be required to leave all money and effects in the sheriff’s office.
  2. Each person will be kept in his own cell.
  3. Prisoners will be required to keep their cells clean, and to empty their cell buckets twice each day, and to keep their person and clothing clean.
  4. Prisoners will be required to take a bath once a week.
  5. Prisoners will not be allowed to lie upon their beds in the day time unless sick. Hammocks must be kept rolled up.
  6. Prisoners requiring more exercise than can be had in their cells may be allowed to exercise, one at a time, in the centre corridor. They must walk briskly up and down the corridor, until they are returned to their cell. Any effort to converse with other prisoners will be promptly punished.
  7. No one will be allowed to deface or soil the walls of this jail in any manner.
  8. No loud talking, singing, whistling or obscene or profane language will be allowed.
  9. Prisoners are forbidden to speak or motion to any one through the windows.
  10. No disrespectful or impertinent behavior to officer or visitors or to fellow prisoners will be tolerated.
  11. The use of intoxicating liquor is prohibited. Those using tobacco must spit only in the spittoons provided for that purpose, and must wash them out once each day.
  12. Prisoners may receive visitors by permission of the sheriff, and under such conditions as he may prescribe.
  13. All letters and parcels passing in and out of the jail must be subject to the sheriff’s inspection before delivering.
  14. Complaints and requests of prisoners should be made to the sheriff, and all such will receive due attention.
  15. Written or verbal orders will be given to officers and prisoners as occasion may arise for issuing them, which will have the same force as these rules.
  16. For disobeying these rules or any other lawful order, either verbal or written, such punishment will be given as is provided by law.
  17. Visitors may call on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays from 9:45 to 11 a.m. and from 1 to 4 p.m. and stay a reasonable length of time, of which the turnkey shall be judge, but no visitor will be allowed to see or talk to a prisoner except in the presence of one of the turnkeys.
  18. Avoid throwing anything in wash basins, buckets or sinks which will clog up the pipes.

Source: Minnesota State Conference of Charities and Correction – 1894

1889 Jail Stats

In 1889, Oliver Traphagen designed the red brick county jail that also held the sheriff's living quarters.  The jail was located at 614 East Third Street.  The Sheriff and his family lived in the front section of the building and the rear held cells.  The Sheriff's wife cooked meals for the prisoners.   

Source: Images of America Duluth Minnesota by Maryanne C. Norton and Sheldon T. Aubut

Date of erection: 1890
Material: Brick and steel
Cost: 64,250
No. of cells: 39
Prisoners to a cell: 1
Capacity of Jail: 39
Average No. one time: 78
Average No. prisoners: 28.8
Cells for women: 2

“The St. Louis county jail is a thoroughly satisfactory building in all respects. The general plan of the jail proper is practically the same as those of Otter Tail, Olmstead and Goodhue counties.  It is in every way a satisfactory jail, admitting of the separation of prisoners and affording separate provision for prisoners of different classes.  A view of this jail will be found in the frontispiece, and the plan of the jail is given in connection with the description of the St. Louis county jail.”    

Source: excerpt from the Fourth Biennial Report – State Board of Corrections and Charities – dated October 31, 1890

Pre-1890 Information

“St. Louis County.- The jail has been a public nuisance.  The jail had only eight cells, while the number of prisoners was sometimes over sixty.  The ventilation was poor and the prisoners’ discomfort amount to hardship and deplorable moral contamination and inevitable under such circumstances.  A large number of city prisoners were kept in the jail.  These prisoners were infested with vermin and it was impossible to keep them clean.  The result was that the county prisoners shared their miseries.

The new jail has 32 cells for men, each 6 x 7 feet.  The general plan of the jail resembles that of the jails of Otter Tail, Goodhue and Olmsted counties, which have proved thoroughly satisfactory on trial.  The cells are set back to back, with a middle corridor, 6 feet wide.  The front of each cell is composed of open lattice work.

The cell-fronts, floors and ceilings are of iron and steel.  The first and second floors are entirely separate.  On the second floor above the sheriff’s office are three excellent cells for women, with a bath room, and there is a bath room on each tier of men’s cells.  The sheriff’s residence is convenient and commodious, having on the first floor office, kitchen, dining room and parlor; and on the second floor four chambers and three cells for women.

The sheriff and the board of commissioners, after consultation with the secretary of this board, concurred in the opinion that the jail should be kept on the separate plan and an excellent code of rules was prepared by the sheriff and adopted by the board of county commissioners.

St. Louis county is to be congratulated upon the excellent workmanship and the admirable arrangement of this jail.  If the jail is administered in strict accordance with the rules which have been adopted, it will be one of the best jails in the United States.” 

     Source: excerpt from the Fourth Biennial Report – State Board of Corrections and Charities – dated October 31, 1890 

1888 Expenses


“In 1888, the lowest rate per prisoner was in St. Louis county - $241, and the highest in Faribault county - $1,296.”  (The expense per prisoner included board and washing; fuel; and jailers’ salaries.) 

Source: excerpt from the Fourth Biennial Report – State Board of Corrections and Charities – dated October 31, 1890 

Cost of Maintaining Prisoners in County Jails of Minnesota for the year 1888,  Excluding Expenditures for Repairs, Interest on Plant and Sheriff’s Fees Cost of Maintaining Prisoners in County Jails of Minnesota for the year 1889,  Excluding Expenditures for Repairs, Interest on Plant and Sheriff’s Fees
Average No. of Prisoners: 26.6        Average No. of Prisoners: 28.8
Boarding prisoners: 5,545        Boarding prisoners: 6,010
Jailer’s salary: 720        Jailer’s salary:  960

Estimated cost of heating jail:


Estimated cost of heating jail: 238
Washing: 0        Washing: 121
Total: 6,415        Total:  7,329
Yearly cost per prisoner: $241        Yearly cost per prisoner: $254
Weekly cost per prisoner: $4.60        Weekly cost per prisoner: $4.87

Construction Overview

Jail Overview:

The St. Louis County jail programs in Duluth, Hibbing, and Virginia, their buildings and the sheriffs in charge of them date from 1871.

In 1923, the St. Louis County Commissioners constructed a new county jail at 5th Avenue West and 2nd Street in Duluth to conform to the Burnham Plan for the Civic Center group of buildings.  This jail replaced the 1889 jail at 6th Avenue East and Third Street in Duluth. 

When the inmates were transferred to the new structure in the spring of 1925, the old building was remodeled and became the St. Louis County Alms House Dispensary: patients were transferred to it from the Poor Farm.  In 1933 it was renamed Hearding Hospital.  It continued to function as a dispensary to 1945.  Draftees were examined there during the war.  Beginning in 1947, the 1889 building that had lain vacant for 18 months was rented from the county for $50.00 a month for a rooming house business by Emma and George Zink.  The Zink's failed to pay the county and the lease was cancelled in the early 1950s.  Eight lots of county property and the three-story building were sold in July 1953 for a total of $1,100 to H.E. Farnam, a Duluth contractor.  The low price and conditions of sale were controversial.  The building was slated for immediate razing, but the demolition was not undertaken until March 1954.

The Minnesota department of Corrections decided in August 1985, to close the St. Louis County Jail in downtown Duluth unless the county took steps to bring the facility into compliance with state standards and codes.  The Department mandated appointment of a citizens' committee to review the compliance process.  The committee completed its review in July 1987, with a primary recommendation that St. Louis County build a new 146-bed jail in Duluth.  The committee also recommended that a second citizen group be appointed to examine the issues of corrections and jail needs from a broader perspective.  The second group, called the Criminal Justice System Study Committee, completed its work in March 1988, identified several key issues and made many recommendations.

The Board of County Commissioners passed a resolution unanimously March 24, 1992, to submit a Special Use Permit application to the City of Duluth Planning Department to approve a 26-acre site south of Swan Lake Road between Haines Road and Beede Road for the construction of a 70,000 square-foot, 2-story jail facility.  The proposal called for a 152-bed, full-service county jail.  The new St. Louis County Jail was opened on Haines Road in 1995.