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House members reject prison-bed allocation for four counties

BISMARCK – House lawmakers on Wednesday rejected a proposal by the North Dakota Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation to limit the number of prison beds for four counties and charge them if they exceed the quota.

The proposal would have affected Burleigh, Cass, Morton and Williams counties.

Rep. Jon Nelson, R-Rugby, said it was “intended to get to the problem in Burleigh County,” where the department claims sentencing practices have led to a higher number of inmates being sentenced to prison when they could be sentenced to the county jail.

Rep. Todd Porter, R-Mandan, said the dispute is between the judicial and executive branches, and county taxpayers shouldn’t be penalized.

“I just really think that dragging the taxpayers into this fight is the wrong method to try and solve this fight,” he said.

At Porter’s request, the department’s budget bill, House Bill 1015, was divided so members could vote separately on the prison bed allocation. It failed by a vote of 45-48.

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