- Associated Press - Friday, October 31, 2014

MINOT, N.D. (AP) - Meeting a state directive to reduce the inmate population at the crowded Ward County jail will be costly, Sheriff Steve Kukowski says.

The county budgeted $160,000 for boarding inmates at other facilities next year - but the tab now could surpass $700,000, Kukowski told the Minot Daily News (https://bit.ly/1nVSMfo ).

The number of inmates has grown along with the population in the region, which is on the fringe of the booming oil patch. The jail has 104 beds but was housing more than 150 inmates. The state Corrections Department this week told the county to address the problem.

“We knew that day was coming, and we were going to have to do something. It was inevitable,” Kukowski said.

Inmates have been moved to lockups in Bismarck, Rugby and Fargo. The jail also has been releasing inmates accused of the lowest class of misdemeanor crimes on their promise to appear in court. The jail population on Thursday was 96 inmates.

The problem is not short-term, however, with a planned jail expansion still well into the future.

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.

Until an expansion is completed, the county will have to continue to move inmates, or look into alternatives to incarceration, such as monitoring systems.

“But again, there’s a cost attached to all of that,” Kukowski said. “It’s going to be a surprise to the commissioners when we tell them this cost is going to be huge.”

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Information from: Minot Daily News, https://www.minotdailynews.com

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