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Grand Forks jailers step closer to transporting federal prisoners

GRAND FORKS - Jailers at the Grand Forks County Correctional Center will start moving federal prisoners to and from jail just as soon as they get weapons and the training they need to use them.

The Grand Forks County Commission on Wednesday agreed to spend $9,600, plus the cost of ammunition, to buy service revolvers and related equipment for the center's new federal prisoner transport team.

"The income I have coming in from holding federal prisoners would more than cover the cost," Correctional Center Administrator Bret Burkholder told the commission.

He anticipates the program will begin by April. The training is being coordinated through the Grand Forks County Sheriff's Department.

Twelve correctional officers will participate in the federal transport team, shifting from county to federal duty when transports are necessary.

Burkholder said that while he will have to change existing schedules, the transport team will provide additional revenue to the county.

He also believes a transport team will enhance the county's reputation with federal agencies and lead to them providing a steady stream of prisoners and revenue to the county.

Federal agencies will pay the county more than $19 per hour for each transport team officer while moving a prisoner to and from court or to and from another institution. They also pay mileage to the county.

The jail also is paid room and board from the federal government for housing prisoners.

Some federal agencies, including Immigration and Customs Enforcement, have their nearest headquarters in the Twin Cities. They need agencies to transport prisoners from jail to court hearings and back.

The jail housed 58 federal prisoners as of Tuesday, plus 21 other "paying customers," as Burkholder refers to prisoners who come from other jurisdictions, such as the state prison system and cities outside Grand Forks.

The jail had a total population of 199 on Tuesday. It has a capacity of 240.

The County Board also approved a $15,000 increase in the jail's contracted nurse program.

Burkholder said the county jail contracts with the Grand Forks Public Health Department for nursing services. Under federal contracts, every federal prisoner in the jail must have a basic health assessment.

The demand has risen as the number of federal inmates has increased, he said