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Increase in GF County's U.S. Marshals Service inmates brings in money

A big increase in the number of inmates held for the U.S. Marshals Service in the Grand Forks County jail bodes well for the jail's bottom line, administrator Bret Burkholder told the county commission Tuesday.

A big increase in the number of inmates held for the U.S. Marshals Service in the Grand Forks County jail bodes well for the jail's bottom line, administrator Bret Burkholder told the county commission Tuesday.

At 9 a.m. Tuesday, the jail had 195 inmates, and 76 of them, or 39 percent, were "per-diems," or inmates held for some agency other than the county, meaning the county is getting paid to house them. That's ahead of his target of making sure about at least 30 percent of his inmates are paying, or per-diem, types that bring revenue to the county, not just cost, Burkholder said.

And of the several outside agencies using the Grand Forks jail, the U.S. Marshal Service has shown the most increase, up 61 percent from year-ago figures.

The number of inmates coming to the jail from the federal Immigration and Customs Enforcement agency is down 6 percent this year over last. And the number of inmates housed for the city is down 17 percent, just based on apparently fewer jailable crimes, Burkholder said. "Which is a good thing," he hastens to say, although acknowledging it decreases the county's revenue from city inmates.

Meanwhile, federal inmates from the Border Patrol are up 27 percent, from the Bureau of Prisons, up 28 percent and from the state of North Dakota, up 21 percent, from the same period a year ago, Burkholder said.


The big increase is in the U.S. Marshals Service's inmates.

"Through April, we have had 6,060 inmates from the U.S. Marshals Service," he said. "The figure for all of 2009 was 6,595."

Burkholder credits a new federal inmate transport team he assembled summer to woo more federal prisoner business for the increase in federal marshal "holds."

The idea is to transport federal inmates for the feds, for a price.

In its first eight months -- Sept. 1 through April 30 -- the team made 125 trips taking 212 federal inmates a total of 8,500 miles, Burkholder told the commission.

It's meant an added $14,000 in revenue, which has paid off 41 percent of the investment in the team that included a vehicle, special handcuffs and other equipment, he said.

Plus, the jail's employees on the team have their wages paid, in effect, by the feds, for the time spent in the inmate transport, an extra savings to the county, he said.

The typical transport for federal inmates might be from the jail to the federal court and back, or to Fargo and back, he said.


Based on the first four months of the year, Burkholder projects that the jail will make $258,000 more in revenue this year from marshal service inmates alone, compared with 2009.

And that, he expects, will push total jail revenue from last year's $1.6 million to about $1.8 million this year, Burkholder said.

Federal agencies generally pay the county $70 a day to house an inmate.

Although the jail has 242 beds, he doesn't want more than 200 inmates on a regular basis because he needs to keep enough flexibility to keep everyone housed properly and accommodate whatever happens, Burkholder said

For example, a year ago, the major flooding in Fargo meant that inmates of the Cass County jail were sent up and crammed into the Grand Forks jail for a period, making the prisoner count 250 or more. Even a busy weekend can mean needing some empty cells to hold the temporary rush, he said.

The new transport team is making it make more sense for the marshal service to house inmates in Grand Forks rather than other jails in the region, he said.

Elevator expansion in Arvilla approved

The County Commission also approved a special use permit for CGI elevator in Arvilla, N.D., to build a big addition to store more corn and soybeans.


Manager Roger Thompson said the expansion will add 1 million bushels of storage in two big bins, increasing by 75 percent or so the current storage capacity of about 1.35 million bushels.

The expansion, which already has started with excavating dirt -- which is allowed before the special use permit is approved -- also includes a new dust-removal system, a truck dump and some roadway and drainage improvements.

It will allow the elevator to load even more 110-car "shuttle trains," in Arvilla.

CGI, or Columbia Grain Inc., based in Portland, Ore., also is building elevator expansions in Crystal and in Valley City, N.D., Thompson said.

Reach Lee at (701) 780-1237; (800) 477-6572, ext. 237; or send e-mail to slee@gfherald.com .

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