Inside the Walls of the Wright County Jail

The second part of our series recognizing local law enforcement takes a behind-the-scenes tour of the Wright County Jail.

When Wright County moved forward with the decision to construct a new Law Enrforcement Center north of Buffalo in the early 2000s, one of the driving reasons was to construct a new county jail. 

The old facility, in Buffalo, was small, wearing down and in the heart of a growing Wright County seat. 

Now, the new facility is full of modern technology, houses more inmates (yet, in the long run, will save the county taxpayer dollars) and is in bordered by farm fields. 

For those who have been inside the walls of the Wright County Jail, they care very little about its $30 million price tag, or the fact it has state-of-the-art equipment.

Actually, the latter does help the prison population. Visits can be more easily coordinated because they can be done via video teleconferencing. And friends and loved ones can put money on an inmate's Canteen card, using Inmate Canteen, which allows the prisoner to buy items inside, dispensed through vending machines.

Profits from the Inmate Canteen program are used to purchase things such as televisions and computers, "rather than use taxpayer money," said Sheriff Joe Hagerty.

The average stay of a Wright County inmate is measured in days - usually a little over eight. The average population is 95 inmates, housed for any variety of crimes. There were 4,411 adult bookings in 2002 (the last year census information was available), and 202 juvenile bookings.

The jail does enforce the Huber Law - which allows an inmate (whose employer is willing) to leave the grounds for work  at their regular place of employment during their normal working hours but they must return to the jail during their non-working hours. This opportunity is available at the discretion of the court, and the inmate must pay the County $20 per day for this privilege.

One of the trends, according the Asst. Jail Administrator Tim Pippio, in incarceration is a rise in mental health issues. 

"It's huge," he said. "I'd say 95 pecent of the people who are brought here are dealing with some sort of mental health issue, or substance abuse problem." 

There are resources for those who are sick. Counslors are on site, and the jail has an infirmary, staffed by members of Allina Medical Center, to assist inmates. 

In addition to Huber's Law, the county adheres to legislation which allows counties to charge a daily fee to convicted inmates. This daily fee, or per diem, is intended to offset some of the costs of incarceration.Wright County began charging $20 a day for inmate stays in 2003. In addition to the per diem rate, the county also bills the inmate for a booking fee of $25 and for reimbursement of any medical costs incurred while in custody. Unpaid invoices are submitted to a billing company for processing. Uncollected accounts are referred from there to a collection agency.

Lisa Peterson May 21, 2011 at 02:57 AM
Interesting! I did not know folks in jail could still go to work - but a great idea! I also didn't realize 95% of those in our local jail were dealing with mental illness issues or substance abuse. Great series!


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