The Tri-County Corrections Board met Monday at the Northwest Regional Correction Center (NWRCC).

The meeting began with Executive Director Andrew Larson updating the board with April’s monthly jail statistics. The monthly statistics included the average daily population of 149 inmates (122 males and 27 females), which brings the year-to-date average population to 141.

The most common cases for incarceration included controlled substance abuse, DWI’s failure to appear in court, and parole/probation violation. The NWRCC’s total revenue in April was $119,480.

Terminations and resignations have circulated through the corrections center as of late, which has caused significant concerns. “We’ve hit a tough spot recently, where we’ve hit a large number of resignations that have occurred in a short period,” said Larson, “The challenge with staffing and resignations; the best case scenario it’s probably one month until you can get someone on board to start training. Often, it ends up taking longer than that.”

The jail has five vacant full-time positions, and five new hires are entering the training phase. Even with the introductory training, corrections officers have a probationary period before taking on their full-time duties. “It’s almost like we’re ten people short due to training,” said Larson, “They can’t work post independently yet. There’s a probation period, typically one year. Once we can get them to a year, we usually have much better success hanging onto them. It’s getting employees to that one-year mark, where they’re comfortable with the job, and with the expectations, they have a good sense of what’s required of them.”

With the current staffing issues and retention of employees, the jail may be forced to shut down a housing unit. This could potentially affect the number of inmates the jail can hold and scheduling with staff and officers as soon as next month. The NWRCC faced this challenge before, in 2021, when they were forced to discontinue operations in one of the three housing units in the jail. “Our licensing capacity in the jail is 200 (inmates),” said Larson, “So if we close a housing unit, our capacity is then reduced based on the housing unit that is closed. This reduces the amount of people we can house. If we close a unit, we don’t have to staff that post on a 24/7 basis.”

The jail and juvenile center also experience staffing issues. Last month, the board was informed that the juvenile center had six resignations in two weeks, forcing it to close its secure-detention side of the facility again.

Fortunately, the Red River Juvenile Center has seen many applicants for the recent job openings, and Larson was pleased to inform the board that multiple job offers have been distributed. “Last week, three or four new people started,” said Larson, “But again, there’s at least one month of training involved with the new hires until they’re ready to start working independently. Thankfully, Kyle Allen (program director) and others have stepped up, working nights and weekends to keep the building open. The staffing at the juvenile center was so dire that we were near the point where we would close the whole facility entirely until we could get people hired and trained.”

The juvenile center still has full-time and part-time positions and is actively hiring. There is no estimated date for opening the secure-detention portion of the facility. Larson explained that it would depend on the training and retention of current employees.

The board lastly reviewed the in-custody death that took place at the jail in February of this year. Larson explained that the case was further investigated by a Death Review Team that was put together last month. “Anytime there is an in-custody death within the state, there are specific requirements, some in place after legislative updates and statutory requirements after the 2023 legislative session,” said Larson, “The statute reads that you need to put together a Death Review Team, and that team consists of jail staff, administration, a medical expert, and depending on the death you need a mental health expert to participate in the review.”

The state statute states that the Death Review Team is put together to review the death and assess preventable mortality and morbidity. The autopsy from the NWRCC in-custody death indicated it was a death by suicide. The Death Review Team held further investigations and also reported the death as a suicide.

Recommendations such as additional suicide and mental health screenings for inmates who show signs of suicide or mental health instability have been made by the Death Review Team; however, no action was taken from the board regarding the subject.

The Tri-County Corrections Board will meet next Monday, June 10, at the Northwest Regional Correction Center.