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DOC orders Ramsey County Jail to decrease its number of inmates


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    ST. PAUL, Minneapolis (WCCO) — Problems at the Ramsey County Jail have the state stepping in.

By Wednesday, the county’s Adult Detention Center will need to have at least 45 fewer inmates.

The Minnesota Department of Corrections is requiring the adjustment because of “conditions that pose an imminent risk of life-threatening harm or serious physical injury.”

“What we’re talking about is the humane care and treatment of people who are entrusted into our custody,” said Trista MatasCastillo, the chair of the Ramsey County Board of Commissioners.

The county says staff member concerns to Sheriff Bob Fletcher weren’t addressed, so Ramsey self-reported to the state.

In its investigation, the DOC found it took more than an hour and a half to admit a stroke victim to a hospital last month. Another person last year went more than 24 hours in a cell without food or water.

For the DOC’s full letter to Ramsey County detailing more of its findings, click here.

“As we downsize the number of people we’re caring for, it allows us to reset, rebuild and do things differently as we move forward,” said MatasCastillo.

Ramsey County sent a plan to the state Monday to lower its jail population. It involves transferring inmates to several other facilities starting as soon as Tuesday morning.

One of those facilities will be the county workhouse. Fletcher says capacity there is only at 25%. No inmates will be released.

Fletcher gave this statement to WCCO:

I share the concerns about overcrowding in our jails. In fact, it’s an issue we’ve tried to raise with the county board for months and months, including as far back as last May.

Overcrowding isn’t a new problem. It’s part of a nationwide trend and entirely predictable, caused by significant increases in crime, massive backlogs in the criminal justice system and a nationwide worker shortage.

We’ve been working hard to address the issue by aggressively recruiting and hiring corrections officers while at the same time trying to work with our County Commissioners on solutions – like making better use of the Ramsey County Workhouse, that’s only using 25 percent of its capacity.

We haven’t gotten there yet, but I’m heartened to see the Board ready to take the challenge seriously and looking forward to working with them on a permanent solution. In the meantime, we’ll be moving some inmates to other secure facilities throughout Minnesota. No inmates will be released.

After the reduction plan was submitted, Ramsey County gave this statement: “Ramsey County Community Corrections, Public Health, and other executive leadership and staff have been working all day with the Ramsey County Sheriff’s Office to offer solutions to the Department of Corrections they would not have without the broader county support. Our goal is the health and safety of residents and staff.”

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