A flexible agreement with the U.S. Marshals Service will allow Becker County to earn revenue at its new jail by taking in federal prisoners when space allows.
The county hopes to board from 10 to 20 federal prisoners, receiving $72 per day for each one, plus compensation for prisoner transports, said Becker County Sheriff Todd Glander. The county has held as many as 30 federal prisoners in the past, he said.
How much revenue the county receives “really depends on how many inmates we have of our own,” Glander said. “The revenue will depend on space requirements for county inmates.”
The U.S. Marshals Service in North Dakota reached out to Becker County to inquire about boarding its prisoners while they are going through the federal court process, usually at the federal courthouse in Fargo, said Assistant Becker County Jail Administrator Christopher Burton.
The federal prisoners mean extra work for county corrections officers, naturally, but they are not generally any more dangerous than regular county inmates, he said. “Those inmates are going through the federal court process, similar to our county court process, only charged out federally,” he said. “They’re a very similar group.” The Marshals Service uses other jails, too, in Fargo and Grand Forks, he added.
The three-year agreement is more flexible than a contract in that it does not guarantee a certain number of county beds to federal prisoners.
“If we have extra beds, we can help out the U.S. Marshals Service and take more inmates,” he said. “Our jail population fluctuates, especially in this time of covid … We have a lower population now than we normally would, though it’s still sizable, so we can take a few more federal prisoners now. We’ll keep it up as long as the county population is lower.”
Federal prisoners go through a COVID-19 quarantine process like all other inmates when they first enter the Becker County Jail, Burton said. Then they are reclassified into either the medium- or maximum-security areas of the jail, and join that jail population.
“It’s a good thing for the county, and we’ll keep the numbers workable for the staff we have,” he said.
The county also continues to board state prison inmates that qualify for special programs, such as construction work or working at the county recycling center. There are currently six to eight state prisoners working at the recycling center, a number that had held steady at 10 until the last year or so, Burton said.