State Public safety forum pushes for new ideas on minimizing number of inmates

BISMARCK, N.D. - Keeping criminals off the streets is important, but keeping people out of prison makes sense from a money standpoint.

State leaders and law enforcement met at a state public safety forum Tuesday where they talked more about that.

The annual cost of a prison bed in North Dakota is more than $40,000 a year.

Minimizing the number of inmates in prisons and jails with other alternatives is important to law enforcement leaders.

At the forum they brought out several ideas.

For one, law enforcement and experts say they could make some changes to the pretrial system to minimize the amount of defendants that go in and out of jails across the state.

Panelists spoke about potential changes they can make to minimize the number of people making repeated rounds through the jails and prisons.

"If we focus on the things that are landing people in jail again and again. Then we get that outcome. But that can't be our focus, fewer people in jail is a bit arbitrary," said Cass County Jail Administrator Andrew Froeig.

Tuesday's Forum helps agencies grasp what their needs are and how they can work together.

"Think through other tools they have in addition to incarceration or instead of incarceration that can really help reduce recidivism. And decrease the likelihood of people committing new crimes," said Sara Friedman, Council of State Governments Justice Center senior policy analyst.

Panelists say making changes to pretrial services could be an option. They dabbled with the possibility of creating a ride share program to help people get to their hearings.

Travis Finck/ nd commission on legal counsel for indigents Deputy Director: "We need to continue to move the ball forward. And we need to continue to keep that focus on what really matters."

They also mentioned creating a notification system to remind defendants when their next hearing is coming up.

Flink says they need to focus on assuring everyone has sufficient resources across the state so defendants can be treated equally everywhere.