Ramsey County must reduce jail capacity, state orders

Updated: 4:55 p.m.

The Department of Corrections is ordering the Ramsey County Sheriff's Office to reduce the capacity of its Adult Detention Center by Wednesday.

A plan for the reduction must be submitted to the state by the close of business on Monday.

The move came after a state investigation into complaints from Ramsey County Public Health officials that inmates in need of emergency medical care were not getting it. They cited cases where someone in custody was suffering a stroke, another inmate had injected drugs, and another case where an inmate had been bleeding for more than two hours “without any attention from correctional staff.”

“As the state’s licensing authority, any risk to the life and safety of those in custody must be addressed immediately,” DOC Commissioner Paul Schnell said in a statement. “When the stakes are this high, taking decisive action quickly is a must.”

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The department ordered the county to reduce the capacity at the jail to 360 inmates and its operational bed capacity to 324 inmates by noon on Wednesday. The center has an official capacity of 500 beds.

In an interview on Sunday, Ramsey County Board Chair Trista MatasCastillo said county officials alerted the sheriff's office of the concerns but nothing was done. She says county officials continue to investigate the matter.

"We made three separate attempts from December through February to reach the sheriff to resolve the issues with no success and which is when we decided that we needed further assistance [from] the Department of Correction to address the issues."

Sheriff Bob Fletcher said in a statement that he shares “the concerns about overcrowding in our jails” and said he had tried to raise the issue with commissioners for months.

“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,” Fletcher went on to say in the statement.

“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.”

The Department of Corrections issued a similar order for the Beltrami County Jail on Jan. 27, citing multiple violations of the state’s jail standards.