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Many female inmates face felony charges

The Hubbard County Correctional Center has housed 141 female inmates this year.

More than half were charged with felonies.

Sheriff Gary Mills presented the Hubbard County board with those statistics after commissioners questioned whether the jail was overstaffed last week at a special budget meeting. Minnesota's Department of Corrections has very specific inmate-to-correctional officer ratios for jails. "Eliminating female inmates will not reduce staffing numbers," the report stated. "The staffing is 0-60 inmates whether male, female or combined."

"The part that surprises me is that 55 percent are felonies," said county commissioner Dick Devine, scanning the report Mills brought to Wednesday's regular board meeting.

"They're all serious felonies so you've gotta watch them," Mills said.

The jail, if the current trend holds, expects to house 200 female inmates this year.

"We had 1,959 female days" between Jan. 1 and Sept. 15, 2008, the report indicates. "If we boarded out, this would have cost us $107,745 to date at $55 per day." But the report noted that some counties charge more for females inmates.

Additionally the correctional center would have incurred transportation costs ferrying prisoners to other counties at an estimated cost of $105 per trip.

The closest facility would likely be Crow Wing County's, the report stated.

The cost per trip wouldn't include a deputy's time. Two deputies are required to transport prisoners.

The jail averages around 50 inmates per day, according to the report prepared for the board.

Commissioners had questioned the jail staffing last week, suggesting that fewer jailers should be scheduled.

Jail administrator Sherri Klasen, who was out of town Wednesday, prepared the report indicating that jail staffing was appropriate for the number of prisoners.

The jail staffing is symptomatic of larger issues within the law enforcement budget. Mills and his staff are grappling with his budget requests, which commissioners ordered him to cut drastically.

"I don't even know where I'm going to start," he said Wednesday.

Mills did get some good news, however. A recent county auction netted his department nearly $8,500 for the sale of some confiscated and worn property.

Two snowmobiles that were the subject of some controversy at the special budget meeting last week were sold at auction - but Mills' department didn't benefit from that sale. They weren't his.

Commissioners cited them as examples of wasteful spending. The sleds were 10 years old, but only had 1,200 miles on them.

Mills said his staff will try to make the $200,000 in requested cuts without affecting vital services, but he was clearly frustrated by the state-imposed levy limits that counties are passing along to department heads.