No Room at the Jail | VideoRetha Colclasure | 10/1/2012
Every time a new inmate is brought into jail, the search for a bed is on.
"We`ve been doing this now since January 10 this year, we`ve had somebody outside this facility every single night," said Sheriff Pat Heinert.
The jail only has 138 beds available. That means searching outside the jail for places to put inmates.
"By the end of the day we`ll have about 50 people in other facilities," Heinert said.
Traditionally, they`ve turned to Stutsman, Mercer, Stark and McLean counties, along with the Bismarck Transition Center, when they need a few extra beds.
But those jails are filling up too and the next closest bed is 200 miles away.
"Our next option is Cass County, Fargo. After that it`s Grand Forks, then out of state. The costs are just going to keep on climbing," Heinert said.
So far, the county has spent $152,000 to pay other jails to hold their inmates. That number doesn`t include things like the cost of gas for transportation or officer`s time.
The problem is not exclusive to Burleigh County. In fact, the jails that Burleigh County would take inmates to are also full and facing their own problems.
"Not sure where it`s going to stop but if it keeps going next year like it is this year, we`re going to be in the extreme category of housing," Heinert said.
This problem has been years in the making. The county has been studying the jail`s needs for several years and has yet to figure out exactly what to do, or how to pay for it.
"We`re probably at least 3 1/2, four years away from moving into a new facility as of right now," Heinert said.
As for what to do with the pressing need for space before then, Heinert says they`re looking at every option available, even creating a temporary minimum-security facility.
One option to pay for a new jail would be through a new sales tax. But since Burleigh County does not have a home rule charter, it has no authority to impose such a tax.
The commission will be discuss creating one tonight. But even doing that will take another year and a half.