County passes recent jail inspection

Published 12:00 am Friday, May 31, 2002

The Mower County Jail is full.

The average daily population is more than the number allowed by the Minnesota Department of Corrections.

Still, the jail managed to pass the annual DOC inspection.

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"We'd like to do better, but we're satisfied," said Mower County Sheriff Barry Simonson.

The inspection was conducted April 3 and shows the sheriff's department was in compliance with 98.2 percent (111 of 113) of the mandatory rules and 97.2 percent (104 of 197) in the essential categories in 2001.

This year, the numbers are 98.2 percent (mandatory) and 98.1 percent (essential).

The improvement (0.9 tenths of a percent in the essential category) is, in part, one way of measuring improvements to the jail since the March 25, 2001, escape of three felons accused of murder.

"We were out of compliance with two rules in the mandatory section," said Sheriff Simonson. "Both of them relate to our high population of inmates."

The DOC requires inmates to be classified by criteria, including gender, gang affiliation, escape risk, health and other factors.

"Then," added Simonson, "we are required to separate them based on those findings."

Because of the high daily population (over 41 in 2001), "It was not possible to meet the Department of Corrections' regulations," Simonson said.

Now, Mower County must develop a written plan on how it will comply.

Mower County was out of compliance with two essential DOC rules. Those were also related to the high average daily population.

One of the violations had to do with

exceeding the limit for operating capacity.

The other is related to staffing.

If the jail has over 31 inmates, the DOC wants Mower County to have a full-time programming coordinator for inmates.

"That person would be responsible

for educational, vocational, social service, work release and other necessary programs," Simonson said.

Mower County jail administrator Bob Roches and his 12-full-time jail staff currently does that work.

The DOC inspector commended Mower County's Board of Commissioners and Roches and the jail staff for "working together to make the best of a difficult situation."

The inspector's report also noted the limitations due to age and design of the jail. "This affects issues like maintenance , necessary staff levels and ADA accessibility," Simonson said.


said , "The report indicates we have some challenges to work on."

"It did not point out anything

we did not already know," he said.

The sheriff said the county board's recent decision to retain a consultant, concerning jail needs, was necessary

"Yes, changes need to be made," he said. "and the process is in place and moving forward."