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Debt collection change may be part of reduced STS participation

A change in how fines are collected may be reducing the incentive for inmates to participate in Sentence to Serve.

Tim Houle, Crow Wing County administrator, Tuesday told the board the numbers of inmates willing to participate in Sentence to Serve (STS) has declined substantially.

Inmates who are nonviolent and have passed a drug screen may be eligible to work on projects, often helping with nonprofit events or such activities as community cleanups. Inmates were able to work off fines at a rate of $6 per hour and then once all fines were paid, were able to work off jail time.

Houle said since a state policy change put debt collection not in the apparent hands of the judge to a more traditional collection model of a bill collector, fewer inmates are participating.

Houle said he’d like to keep the fine collection process more local and tied to the judicial process to retain the incentive for inmates to serve on the STS crews. Commissioner Paul Thiede suggested sending a letter to the Department of Corrections.

Don Ryan, county attorney, reported the state judicial system went to a regional fine collections system multiple years ago and has been in that transition for several years.

Even so, Thiede said it was worth taking a swing at it.

In other business, the board:

Learned Essentia Health requested at meeting at 3 p.m. Wednesday, May 23, to talk about detoxification.

Heard a reminder from Thiede the annual Crow Wing Canoe Day event, with its run from Kiwanis Park in Brainerd south to Crow Wing State Park, is planned June 16. Thiede said with the road construction on College Drive, the back access roads to the landing will be promoted.

Learned in committee reports from Thiede the Pine River Watershed kickoff event is 2-4 p.m., June 15, at the Warehouse Gymnasium, 307 Norway St., Pine River. Thiede, who serves on the Mississippi Headwaters Board (MHB), said he believes there are good things happening in the watershed districts. Thiede said the MHB, not long ago in danger of being zeroed out of the state budget, is now being looked at to do more, such as effort in reforestation along the river corridor, shoreland restoration matching grants and coordination of efforts along the river so groups know what each other is doing.

In other committee reports, Thiede said a transit workshop brought up the topic of taking over the Pine River city bus route and folding it into the county’s transit system. Thiede said the Greater Minnesota Public Transit coordinator is getting pressure to do more for rural areas in utilizing public transit but difficulties arise in whether there are enough riders and appropriate service hours.

RENEE RICHARDSON, senior reporter, may be reached at 855-5852 or Follow on Twitter at

Renee Richardson
Richardson is a Pacelli High School graduate from Austin, Minn., who earned an applied science degree from the University of Minnesota, Waseca, with an emphasis in horse management. She worked extensively in the resort industry. She received an associate’s degree from Central Lakes College, where she was editor of the Westbank Journal student newspaper, as well as a summer intern at the Dispatch. She graduated from St. Cloud State University summa cum laude with a bachelor’s degree in mass communications and interned at the St. Cloud Times covering business while attending SCSU. She's been with the Brainerd Dispatch since 1996.
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