Inspection report shows Kandiyohi County Jail in compliance
WILLMAR -- During a state inspection this month, the Kandiyohi County Jail was found to be 99 to 100 percent in compliance with regulations. Records of past inspections by the Minnesota Department of Corrections show similar levels of compliance....
WILLMAR - During a state inspection this month, the Kandiyohi County Jail was found to be 99 to 100 percent in compliance with regulations.
Records of past inspections by the Minnesota Department of Corrections show similar levels of compliance.
The on-site state inspection is just one of multiple inspections by various local, state and federal entities that hold the facility accountable for meeting standards, said Sheriff Dan Hartog.
"There's a lot of eyes that come in and overlook our operation and make sure we're doing what we're supposed to be doing," he said. "It's all transparent."
As the race heats up to elect the next Kandiyohi County sheriff replacing Hartog when he retires at the end of the year, allegations are being publicly made of substandard practices and falsified records at the county jail.
But public documents show otherwise, and Hartog said the level of documentation and ongoing outside scrutiny makes it "very tough" to conceal deficiencies or allow them to go uncorrected.
"I want the public to realize we've always operated above board and ethically and transparently," he said.
The Tribune reviewed reports for Minnesota Department of Corrections inspections conducted in January 2003, January 2005, November 2006, January 2009, December 2010, November 2012, January 2015, January 2017 and October 2018. All the reports are classified as public data.
In all but a handful of instances, the Kandiyohi County Jail achieved 100 percent compliance in both rule categories: mandatory requirements, which are life-critical, and essential requirements.
The lowest compliance rating since 2003 was 97.98 percent, earned in the 2006 inspection for falling short on meeting all essential requirements. The deficiencies cited were for failing to have a written plan in the event of a work stoppage and failing to have all health policies reviewed and approved annually by the jail's medical authority.
The most recent state inspection, which took place in mid-October, included an on-site visit by an inspector, a tour of the 190-bed jail, interviews with staff and inmates, and reviews of employee and inmate files and related documentation.
Timothy Thompson, corrections alternative program manager with the Minnesota Department of Corrections, wrote in his facility inspection report that the Kandiyohi County Jail "continues to operate at a very high level of compliance."
"Facility administration continues to update policies as the operations change. Administration continues to evaluate the operations and determine facility/staff needs, and provides the support necessary to ensure safe and efficient operations," the report said.
One corrective action is required: development by jail administration and the facility's contracted medical provider of a written plan for medication reconciliation.
The jail routinely undergoes inspections by other agencies as well. Because the jail boards some federal prisoners, there is a federal inspection that's usually carried out every year. There's an annual inspection by the fire marshal and an annual health inspection by Kandiyohi County. Hartog said the jail recently underwent an inspection to evaluate compliance with the Prison Rape Elimination Act, a federal law that has been in force since 2003.
The state Auditor's Office also routinely conducts a review of finances and recordkeeping at the jail, including an on-site visit. These inspections are typically unannounced.
"They go through all of our books," Hartog said. "They spot-check different areas."
With 106 employees and an annual budget of $1 million, the Kandiyohi County Sheriff's Office is a significant enterprise. About half of the employees work at the jail.
Unlike many county jails, Kandiyohi County houses inmates from multiple jurisdictions - local, state, federal and other Minnesota counties. This practice has been in effect since the current jail opened in 2001 and was planned for when the jail was designed. The jail is licensed for 190 but typically operates with 130 to 150 inmates, half of whom are local prisoners.
The revenue from boarding prisoners from other jurisdictions helps support the cost of operating the jail, Hartog said. "It offsets the cost to the taxpayer."
Hartog confirmed this week that there have been recent staff shortages, an issue that has come up repeatedly during the election campaign.
"We were short-staffed for a while" when a handful of employees were absent on family medical leave or with work-related injuries, but required staffing levels continued to be met within the jail, he said. "We have a minimum amount. We have to follow that per DOC rules."
Staffing came under scrutiny a year ago when the Department of Corrections requested a jail staffing plan, which requires approval by the Commissioner of Corrections for all facilities with more than 60 beds.
The plan had to account for vacation time and compensation time to ensure all shifts remained covered, Hartog said. "If people take time off, you have to have the appropriate staff to take their place."
At the time, the jail's 49 employees were working 12-hour shifts, he said. Continuing with 12-hour shifts would have required adding 10 more employees for adequate coverage, while switching to eight-hour shifts would have required the addition of two more staff.
The county drew up plans for both options. According to a letter from the Department of Corrections, both plans were reviewed and a state inspector recommended approval of either plan by the corrections commissioner.
The plan that ultimately was adopted calls for eight-hour shifts Monday through Friday and 12-hour shifts on weekends, Hartog said. New correctional officers have been added and as of this week, the staff is at 51, the number recommended by the staffing plan, he said.
Hartog acknowledged that recruiting correctional officers is becoming more difficult, not just in Kandiyohi County but around the state.
"It is a challenge overall to find people to apply," he said. "The work is 24/7, evenings, nights, holidays, weekends."
But he had positive words for the staff.
"I'm proud of what we have in the jail," he said. "We have a lot of people that work very hard. They work very well with the inmates and with each other."