At a time when unfunded mandates from the state to local governments are the norm, Washington County has won a small victory by recovering a portion of its costs for prosecuting prison inmates.
Washington County Attorney Pete Orput told the County Board last week that his office had negotiated with the state for $25,000 next year to recover some of the costs incurred by the county.
As host to prisons at Stillwater and Oak Park Heights, Washington County has the state's largest inmate population. With about 2,000 adult male inmates at any given time, minor crimes are frequent, Orput said.
Although the inmates come from all over the state, and a handful from beyond Minnesota, prosecuting those crimes falls on his office, Orput told the County Board.
With resources tight, the time consumed by the county's attorneys, paralegals and other staffers adds up quickly.
The county prosecuted 38 cases involving inmates last year, Orput said, involving crimes of assault, smuggling, narcotics and others. There have been 25 cases this year, and he expects the number will hit about 30 by the end of 2012. Almost all go to trial, he said.
The state stopped reimbursing the county for those trial costs several years ago. But Orput said that he and Brent Wartner, his new first assistant who formerly worked at the state Department of Corrections, had reached an agreement with the state for the reimbursement.
"We hope to continue this," he told the board, which didn't need to be asked twice before voting 5-0 to accept the funds. "I'm not sure $25,000 covers it, but at least it's something. This is a start."
A look at Minnesota's adult correctional facilities:
Site * Security ** Population
Faribault Level 1-3 2,006
Stillwater Levels 1, 4 1,460
Lino Lakes Levels 1, 3 1,298
Moose Lake Level 3 1,023
Rush City Level 4 987
St. Cloud Level 4 981
*** Shakopee Levels 1-5 565
Oak Park Heights Level 5 440
* Security defined: Level 1 - minimum (multiple occupancy, no fenced perimeter); Level 2 - minimum (multiple occupancy, low security perimeter); Level 3 - medium (double cells, multiple occupancy, secure perimeter); Level 4 - medium (double cells, secure perimeter); Level 5 - maximum (single cells, secure perimeter)
** Totals as of July 10, 2012
*** Women's prison
Source: Minnesota Department of Corrections