Jail population daily rates grow, new hires anticipated

Published 5:48 am Monday, March 27, 2017

The number of inmates in the Mower County Jail has grown, and Mower County Sheriff Teresa Amazi said “we would anticipate” more hires to handle the numbers.

In a report to the Mower County Board of Commissioners, Chief Deputy Mark May said the average daily rate of prisoners in February was 89; by mid-March, the number was 82.

A year ago, February’s average daily rate was 65, according to past reports. By March 9, 2016, there were 59 prisoners housed in the jail.

Email newsletter signup

“The [growth of the] jail population is of great concern,” said Amazi.

While jail populations will spike on occasion, the bigger concern is a jump that remains high.

The worry about numbers has nothing to do with housing — but it has everything to do with prisoner-to-staff ratios. Right now, there are 32 employees in the jail — administration included — to handle all shifts of the jail. Two more employees are being trained.

The high caseload in the county prompted a third judgeship to be created in June 2016. Judge Christa Daily joined Mower County Judges Jeffrey Kritzer and Kevin Siefken — and initiated a busier jail, said Amazi.

Judge Christa Daily shakes Senior Judge Robert Birnbaum’s hand after she’s sworn in as the newest Third Judicial District judge on Friday in the Mower County Jail and Justice Center. Jason Schoonover/jason.schoonover@austindailyherald.com

Judge Christa Daily shakes Senior Judge Robert Birnbaum’s hand after she’s sworn in as the newest Third Judicial District judge last year at the Mower County Jail and Justice Center. A third Mower County judge has cases moving faster in Mower County, which affects jail populations. Herald file photo

“When we had two [judges], there might be a year and half wait for a trial,” she said. “With a third judge, we have more people going through the system faster.”

While jail personnel are busy, so are the deputies. There were 349 instances of deputies serving papers — subpoenas, court summons, etc. — which is a significant number, said Amazi and having 75 transports over that period “is a lot,” she said.

Her transport deputy, she said, knows the intake person at Minnesota State Correctional Facility at Red Wing so well that they are “on a first-name basis; they know their children’s names, too,” she said.

She said Mower County has a jail population that is only second to Olmsted County in southeastern Minnesota, “and not by much.”

Also reported to the board was that 387, half-pound bags of medicine were turned into the sheriff’s office since January. The drugs, part of the county’s drug take-back program, are taken to the Olmsted County waste incinerator to be destroyed.

May also reported to the board that use of heroin continues to “be on an uptick: and, in recent months, it has been found showing up in the drug fentanyl. The mixture of the two, officials say, can be explosive and cause overdoses. The recovery of such drugs, May said, is dangerous to be handled by deputies, and there have been instances of squads being contaminated by the drug.