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Changing the law — NCCRC officials are hopeful amended legislation will open the door to more boarding contracts

By Staff | Dec 5, 2008

The North Central Correctional and Rehabilitation Center (NCCRC) earlier this year was close to securing an inmate boarding contract with the state of Wyoming which would have all but filled the fledgling Rugby facility.

However, the NCCRC wasn’t allowed to contract directly with other state correctional departments, according to the current state statute.

As a result, the contract with Wyoming was nixed and the facility continued to operate with empty beds and limited revenue sources to make ends meet.

That disappointed jail officials, but they have another card to play. NCCRC board members are hopeful a change in the law will come next year in the form of amended legislation.

District 7 legislator, Rep. Jon Nelson-R, Rugby plans to introduce legislation with bi-partisan support when the N.D. Legislative Assembly meets next year. The amendment would essentially allow regional jails to contract with other state corrections departments for inmates.

The current law allows only the N.D. Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation to contract with other state corrections departments to house prisoners.

The proposed amendment would fall under Section 12-44.1-02 of the North Dakota Century Code which pertains to establishing correctional facilities, correctional facility contracts and regional corrections centers.

The proposed addition to the law would read: “The confinement of lawful committed state, county, or city inmates from the other state. The governing authority of the correctional facility accepting other state inmates must approve and sign the contract authorizing the housing of other state inmates. Prior to accepting an inmate from another state, the administrator of the facility must review the inmate’s file. The administrator shall not accept inmates with a history of violence against staff, or other inmates. When other state inmates are released from incarceration at the facility, they must be transported back to the state with which the facility has the contract.”

Nelson knows well the struggles the Class One facility has had in getting inmate contracts to fill beds. He said what’s worked for other regional jails is finding a niche, finding an entity which needs jail space. The NCCRC and other jails hope being allowed to contract for inmate housing with other state corrections departments will work for them.

Other facilities support it

Bob Wilmot, NCCRC chairman, said other regional jails also want the opportunity to pursue boarding contracts outside of the state with other state corrections departments.

“Others (regional jails) feel the need for a change (in the law) as well,” Wilmot said.

Security has been a key issue in the debate, and whether regional jails would be able to handle inmates from other states’ corrections departments. Wilmot said when Wyoming was considering the NCCRC, it sent up some officials to inspect the facility, and they were satisfied it met all security measures. Those inmates from Wyoming looked at being housed in Rugby were not violent offenders, rather they were already in isolation at facilities there to protect them from other inmates.

The NCCRC is allowed to enter contracts with federal facilities, including the U.S. Marshal’s Service and U.S. Probations. Often, those inmates are non-residents.

If the lawmakers approve the amendment, Wilmot said, it would allow the NCCRC and other regional jails more opportunities to enter boarding contracts and keep the facility at, or near capacity and able to cash flow.

Currently, the NCCRC inmate count is about 80, which is encouraging, but still not near capacity, according to Elaine Little, administrator.

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