State orders Minn. jail to reduce capacity after alleging licensing violations
The order comes after staffing shortages at the 500-bed detention center reportedly led to delayed or denied medical treatment
By Kristi Belcamino
ST. PAUL, Minn. — The Minnesota Department of Corrections has ordered the Ramsey County jail to submit a plan for how it will reduce capacity after an investigation revealed staffing shortages led to delayed or denied medical treatment of inmates.
The 500-bed Ramsey County Adult Detention Center in St. Paul was given a three-day deadline to submit the plan by Monday. According to a DOC statement Friday, the investigation determined that the facility’s “failure to meet minimum staffing levels poses an imminent risk of life-threatening harm or serious injury to individuals within the facility.”
According to the DOC, the jail must “reduce its population to levels designed to ensure staffing sufficient to maintain the safety and wellbeing of those in the facility.”
In its letter detailing the investigation, the DOC found the jail had failed to transport inmates to the hospital for emergency medical care, which was a violation of a state rule governing the operations of the facility.
The DOC said it determined that between September 2022 and January 2023, some of the inmates who were denied or received delayed medical attention included a woman who had a stroke, a man who had ingested drugs, a person brought in following a car crash and a man who was bleeding for two hours before being treated.
“As the state’s licensing authority, any risk to the life and safety of those in custody must be addressed immediately,” Corrections Commissioner Paul Schnell said in the statement. “When the stakes are this high, taking decisive action quickly is a must.”
Sheriff Bob Fletcher sounded the alarm about overcrowding in September, and asked Ramsey County commissioners for an additional $2 million for housing inmates this year. The jail’s budget was $21.7 million in 2022.
“The care and the safety of the inmates in our jail is at risk if the population continues to grow,” Fletcher told the County Board.
On Friday night, Fletcher told the Pioneer Press: “I share the DOC’s concerns about overcrowding in the Ramsey County jail. It’s something I’ve been actively trying to draw attention to. And it was totally predictable, caused by significant increases in crime, massive backlogs in the criminal justice system and a nationwide worker shortage.”
Fletcher went on to say that’s why the sheriff’s office has been aggressively recruiting and hiring corrections officers and asking commissioners for resources and support.
“Specifically,” he said, “we need to make better use of other facilities, such as the Ramsey County workhouse.”
“This can’t wait,” he said. “We need the County Board to take action to address the jail overcrowding.”
Until then, he added, his office will “keep working with limited staff and support to keep inmates safe.”
The Ramsey County order came five days after a similar directive was issued to the Beltrami County jail in Bemidji.