The first jail was built in La Crosse County in 1858 and over the years the location and size of the jail changed to meet the needs of the justice system. In 1965 the 4th Street jail, designed for male and female, adult and juvenile inmates, opened on the second floor of the current Administrative Center. The linear jail was originally created with 60 beds plus 10 receiving cells. As the jail population grew, an area of the first floor in the Administrative Center was remodeled as a 54 bed male Huber facility. Huber inmates are given the privilege of leaving the jail to go to work, counseling, school or treatment. They must submit a schedule of their activities, have it verified and approved before they may be released. Juveniles were moved out of the jail and into a new Juvenile Detention Facility that opened in 1990. Again the population grew and in 1992 the former Montgomery Ward's Service Center, across the street from the 4th Street jail, was remodeled "temporarily" as a 110-bed male Huber facility. The old first floor Huber area became a "Medium Security" area for male inmates in the still overcrowded second floor jail.
As the jail population continued to increase, a decision was made to build a new Law Enforcement building which would provide housing for inmates along with the offices and space for the Sheriff's Dept., 911 Dispatch, Court System and District Attorney. The original plan included a jail facility in excess of 400 beds. The final building provided 172 beds in the 8-pod (17 to 30 beds per pod) housing unit on the second floor of the Law Enforcement Center and 23 receiving cells with a 7-bed medical area on the lower level.
The new jail in the Law Enforcement Center opened in September of 1997. Due to lack of space and the need for inmates to be housed utilizing objective classification (a system of housing assignments based on current charges, past criminal and jail behavior records), the female population remained in the old second floor 4th Street jail. The County Board authorized necessary repairs to be made to comply with state mandates and passed a resolution to limit the number of females to be held in the facility at a maximum of 39. The "Medium Security" area in the Administrative Center was closed and the "temporary" Male Huber Facility remained operational for a total bed capacity of 321. On January 1, 2006 the Male Huber Facility was closed; the bed capacity was reduced to 211.
In November of 2008, ground was broken for a 29.5 million dollar addition to the 1997 Law Enforcement Center. Jail expansion plans included a new kitchen, jail garage, booking, master control, two 57-bed direct supervision blocks, increased program space and remodeling of three existing housing blocks along with the medical and receiving holding cell area of the existing jail. On 02/23/11 the old 1960's "Female Jail" closed and all inmates were housed in the Law Enforcement Center Jail with a bed capacity of 274 plus 49 receiving/medical and close supervision cells.