Beltrami sheriff to talk new county jail options at public event
Minnesota Department of Corrections regulatory changes including a new classification system for inmates as well as modifications to staffing ratios have reduced the county’s jail bed capacity by nearly 80 beds over the past seven years, the county reported.
BEMIDJI — Beltrami County Sheriff Jason Riggs is set to provide an update on the county jail project and the various options to fund the new facility.
Riggs will appear 10 a.m. Friday, May 26, at the Bemidji Senior Center, 216 Third St. NW. This is a free event for the whole community, organizers reported.
The Beltrami County Jail was constructed in 1989 and has undergone numerous upgrades and expansions over the years, the county reported.
“Currently, the design, age and size of the jail is inadequate and poses many challenges in the safe and efficient operation of the facility,” according to an FAQ document. “Increases in population and Minnesota Department of Correction’s (DOC) regulatory changes have also contributed to the need for a new facility.”
Minnesota Department of Corrections regulatory changes including a new classification system for inmates as well as modifications to staffing ratios have reduced the county’s jail bed capacity by nearly 80 beds over the past seven years, the county reported. This means the county must house inmates at other facilities, resulting in high costs, including $1 million to the 2023 budget.
County officials are pursuing a number of funding options, they report, including state appropriations, state bonding, financial assistance from the federal government and a local option sales tax. A property tax increase is possible but a “last resort,” according to county documents.
The jail project comes after action by the state in January to place the facility’s license on conditional status in the wake of alleged delayed emergency care for an inmate who attempted suicide. The order also directed the county to reduce its inmate population.
“As the licensing authority, out of immediate concern for the safety of both staff and the people in custody, I’ve ordered the Beltrami County Jail to reduce the licensed capacity of the facility,” DOC Commissioner Paul Schnell stated at the time. “When life safety is an issue, we must take swift and decisive action.”
According to the DOC, multiple violations involving staffing levels and medical care were discovered as part of the investigation.