The Tri-County Corrections board met last Monday at the Northwest Regional Correction Center conference room and discussed the preliminary budget for the Polk County Justice Center.

Corrections Executive Director Andrew Larson gave a presentation to the board proposing the budget numbers 2024. The budget included a significant increase in prisoners’ living costs, insurance for employees, and a $77,000 increase in workers’ compensation. That budget has more than doubled since 2021. Just over $150,000 was proposed to the board to be allocated toward workers’ compensation. The total budget has reportedly increased four percent since 2019.

Also being increased in the budget are utility costs and food services. Larson estimates an 8.5 percent increase for food services, which is significantly less than other jurisdictions set to suffer a 17% increase in 2024. The NWRCC has been able to keep the damage minimal in terms of food increase because of the labor of inmates. “We’ve seen some big increases but not as bad as some other places are dealing with. A lot of that is driven by us using inmate labor,” said Larson, “We have inmates that work in the kitchen, and it’s a good assignment for them; it gives them skills, gets them out of the housing, and they get to eat more.” Said Larson. Inmates can also work to reduce their sentence when enrolling in the D.O.C. program.

The NWRCC estimates a $17,000 increase in the maintenance budget because of repairs and keep-up charges.

The Justice Center is set to receive $1.7 million in a CCA subsidy, just under $700,000 more than it received in 2023. The state offers three probation delivery systems. Those systems are the D.O.C. supervision, C.P.O., and CCA; the state has seen a $43 million increase in total funding for those systems. “The Department of Corrections provides D.O.C. supervision, C.P.O. means county program officer that is within the purview of individual counties, C.C.A. is correctional county act which is the community corrections act that is local control of how correctional services are delivered.” Said Larson. Larson also stated that this increase in funds will help mitigate the lack of funds from the Juvenile Center due to the secure unit of the facility not being used.

The budget also included the expected decline in revenue for the upcoming year. The Minnesota Rehabilitation and Investment Act is an act that will potentially impact the payment because it will allow many inmates within the state’s prisons to be released from custody once they have served half of their sentence. “This we anticipate will hurt our work release referrals,” said Larson, “We’re planning on a decrease in revenue of about $50,000 on the work release line item on our budget. The state wants to get people out of prisons. We think that will impact our jail and work release population.”

The Justice Center is also budgeting to continue its pretrial probation program, and the NWRCC has an entirely grant-funded probation program. “This position provides pretrial supervision, and the grant ends in 2023 on December 31,” said Larson, “My request to the board was to continue that position for up to six months, as we do have several future grants, but we would like to continue or pretrial supervision program,” Larson stated if they continue receiving the funding for this program, pretrial will continue; if they don’t receive the grant, the NWRCC will create a hybrid position at the jail to conduct evidence-based practices, with a heavy focus on probation cases.