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Federal inmates to return to Devils Lake jail

DEVILS LAKE--Federal inmates will return to the Lake Region Law Enforcement Center, a turning point for the Devils Lake jail that has seen several escape attempts.

Rob Johnson tells the Lake Region Law Enforcement Center Board Wednesday, Aug. 17, 2016, how he plans to lead the Devils Lake jail as its director. The board unanimously approved his promotion to the position the same day. (April Baumgarten/Grand Forks Herald)
Rob Johnson tells the Lake Region Law Enforcement Center Board on Wednesday how he plans to lead the Devils Lake jail as its director. The board unanimously approved his promotion to the position the same day. (April Baumgarten/Grand Forks Herald)

DEVILS LAKE-Federal inmates will return to the Lake Region Law Enforcement Center, a turning point for the Devils Lake jail that has seen several escape attempts.

The U.S. Marshals Service visited the LEC last week to review the facility's security, LEC Director Rob Johnson said Wednesday. Several conversations need to take place within the agency, but once the loose ends are tied up, federal inmates could return to the facility within three weeks, Johnson said.

"They were happy with the progress we made," he said.

The development comes after an inmate escaped the jail in April after he used a steel grate to break a window to climb out. Kenneth Eagleman was missing for a week before he was recaptured. Another inmate, federal prisoner Wesley E. Brown III, escaped the jail in March 2015 with the help of a correctional officer before he was recaptured in Oregon.

The April escape and security concerns prompted the U.S. Marshals Service to cease housing federal inmates at the prison on a long-term basis.

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Johnson, who has served as the interim operations director for the jail since former Director Tom Rime left in June, was hired as the long-term director in August. In his leadership role, he and his staff have worked together to improve security at the jail, he said.

The efforts have paid off. The jail is expected to house three to five inmates, being reimbursed by the U.S. Marshals for each inmate at $68 a day.

The increase in funds isn't a lot, but every dollar helps, Johnson said, especially as the jail looks at future improvement projects with a limited budget.

"It's not going to meet the significant downfall that we have seen," he said. "It is definitely going to help us trend in the right direction."

The jail housed 52 inmates as of Wednesday.

The U.S. Marshals at one point housed 10 inmates at the jail, and Johnson said he hopes those numbers gradually increase.

Johnson agreed the return of federal inmates could be a morale booster, showing the community it has improved its facility in light of recent security issues. Some aspects, such as training staff and gaining experience, will take time, Johnson said, but he believes the jail is heading in the right direction.

"We still have work to do; we're not done yet," he said. "We have a lot of things to work on, and we are going to continue to work on that."

Related Topics: CRIME
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