- Associated Press - Tuesday, October 28, 2014

MINOT, N.D. (AP) - Inmates at the Ward County jail are being moved to lockups in Bismarck, Rugby and, possibly, Grand Forks because of a lack of space at the Minot facility.

The state Corrections Department told the jail to address the overcrowding problem, KXMC-TV reported. The jail has 104 beds but was housing more than 150 inmates last week. The jail population is growing in the region, which is on the fringe of the booming oil patch.

Deputies this week are moving about 10 prisoners each day to other facilities. The jail also has been releasing inmates accused of the lowest class of misdemeanor crimes on their promise to appear in court.

“There are people who are arrested who should be in jail, and they are not because we just don’t have the room for them,” Sheriff Steve Kukowski told the Minot Daily News.

Ward County voters in 2012 approved about $40 million in bonding for a 50-cell jail expansion. They will decide in a special election early next year whether to approve another $38 million in borrowing to increase the project to 100 new cells, and also provide money for courthouse renovations. The money would come not from a new tax but from an extension of an existing sales tax.

“We just want to run it a little longer to pay for the larger facility to house these inmates and get these people off the street,” Kukowski told KXMC.

Moving prisoners to other jails and tracking down released misdemeanor suspects who don’t show up for court is costly for the county, the sheriff said.

With a proposed 100-cell increase, the jail would have 151 cells. Most cells can hold two inmates, which means the jail would have room should inmate numbers continue to grow.

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