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County jail bills Dept. of Corrections hundreds of thousands in 2020

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The state’s prison prioritization plan has allowed the state Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation to defer prisoners to county jails when they hit capacity for several years.

But it became such a significant expense during COVID-19 that the Burleigh County Sheriff says the jail started tracking the cost in March. As a result, the Burleigh Morton Detention Center billed the DOCR $635,850 for 2020. On top of that, so far in January, the DOCR has cost the jail $66,600.

Sheriff Kelly Leben says if you take that bill and divide it by the $75 it costs to house one prisoner for one night, 888 prisoner nights were racked up last month alone.

As a direct result of the prioritization plan’s effects, even prior to the pandemic, House Bill 1112 was drafted to require these bills be paid by the state, not the taxpayers.

“I think COVID has shown that that’s a possible solution,” Sheriff Leben said.

“…and you know, I think that is a strong message that 53 sheriffs and then the jail administrators are all in agreement that this bill is what’s right.”

The bill unanimously passed the House and is waiting review by the Senate Judiciary Committee.

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