The Burleigh-Morton County Detention Center released close to half its inmates over the course of the pandemic.
Before COVID came to North Dakota, the jail population hovered around 300 inmates.
Burleigh County Sheriff Kelly Leben says roughly 140 people were released to slow the spread of the virus in the facility.
Leben says as the virus starting spreading in the state and the jail needed to isolate inmates and make more space, releasing offenders was part of keeping others in the facility safe.
He said the county worked with prosecutors and released only low-level offenders.
“The people we let go weren’t people that shouldn’t be on the street. Basically somebody that had three days left on a 10-day sentence, we released them early. The good news is we had room in our facility, and the other thing it showed us: that of the ones left in that jail, they needed to be in there,” Leben said.
The population has since crept back up to around 260 — still well below pre-pandemic levels.