Crow Wing County Jail looks to be fully staffed in the coming months
Crow Wing County Jail looks to be fully staffed in the coming months as jails around the state are forced to reduce their inmate numbers.
BRAINERD — While at least two Minnesota counties have been ordered to reduce inmate capacity in their jails due to staffing issues, Crow Wing County is moving closer to being fully staffed and to have a health care provider by March.
“(Jail medical staff) has been my area of focus since December,” said Lt. Troy Schilling, the Crow Wing County assistant jail administrator. “With personnel, I know that we're looking pretty good right now. And we're looking to open up one of the (closed) housing units here real soon.”
Crow Wing County Jail medical staff were working without pay for over a month after MEnD Correctional Care quit paying its staff after declaring bankruptcy in late November 2022. In response, the county in January temporarily hired five medical staffers in order to continue the jail health program.
Crow Wing County Sheriff Eric Klang said the county is working to find a new medical provider to provide health care to inmates. One potential provider is Advanced Correctional Healthcare Inc., while a second option under consideration is local provider Essentia Health with a kind of unique model.
The unique model of having a community provider working in the jail was talked about by County Administrator Tim Houle during the Crow Wing County Board meeting Jan. 3. The county would like to explore using Essentia Health as part of a longer-term arrangement, to provide continuity of care for an inmate's long-term success in the community.
At the end of January, the Beltrami County Jail was ordered by the Minnesota Department of Corrections to reduce its capacity by Feb. 1. On Friday, Feb. 3, the department of corrections ordered the Ramsey County jail to submit a plan for reducing its capacity.
Crow Wing County’s average jail population right now is 152 inmates. The jail in Brainerd has four pods of 60 beds each.
Staffing has been a focus for Crow Wing County, too, but one official believes it is improving.
“We have two of our pods that are closed due to staffing levels,” Klang said. “However the good news is, we do have folks hired, they're just in the FTO, or the field training process, right now.”
Klang said it takes about eight weeks for a person to make it through the field training process. During their training, new employees work hand-in-hand with a seasoned officer as they learn the policies and procedures of working in the jail.
After they complete the field training, they count towards jail staff numbers as they are allowed to work on their own.
The jail is continuing to hire as some people retire or find the job is not for them, Schilling said. Crow Wing County Jail lost 20 staff members in 2022, though they average about 8 to 11 turnovers a year.
“Our training process takes about eight to nine weeks and during that period, it's not uncommon for somebody to not make it through that FTO period,” Schilling said. “So we try to keep that hiring list full, as much as possible. And actually, up until now, we haven't been able to have a hiring list, because we're just pulling people straight from that and getting them on-boarded. We're in a position now where we're able to create that hiring list.”
Schilling said they received a large amount of interest in working at the jail after the open house showed people what it was to work at Crow Wing County Jail in October.
Klang mused that Crow Wing County, as a place to live, may be more enticing than other locations for prospective candidates.
“I mean, this is a beautiful county. People want to live here and plus, I think they can also get their significant other to move here as well,” Klang said. “Where it might be a little bit more of a challenge if you're trying to move your family up to Hubbard, for instance.”
TIM SPEIER, staff writer, can be reached on Twitter @timmy2thyme , call 218-855-5859 or email firstname.lastname@example.org .