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Red Wing officials seek laws allowing interstate inmate housing

Goodhue County Sheriff Dean Albers wants more jail inmates.

Pierce County Sheriff Nancy Hove has too many prisoners and nowhere close to house them.

The sheriffs - whose jails are 15 minutes apart - say they would love to help each other out, but want legislation so housing inmates across state lines is headache free.

"We need to be able to cross that border without any issues," Hove said Tuesday. "But we can't quite get our legislators and governors together to get the hoopla figured out."

Rep. Tim Kelly wants to change that.

The Red Wing Republican said this week he will work on legislation that addresses concerns - most of which revolve around extradition - and pave the way for easy inmate housing between facilities across state lines.

Kelly said Minnesota and Wisconsin law does not prohibit housing inmates across the border but that statutes also do not directly address the issue.

Officials fear that without proper legislation, inmates housed across state lines will put up a legal fight when authorities need to return them to the jurisdiction in which their crime was committed.

Hove said extradition battles could tie up the court system, something neither sheriff wants.

Kelly said he will work with Wisconsin and Minnesota officials to craft legislation that makes them comfortable. The lawmaker hopes it will help law enforcement officials statewide.

"It's not the most expedient way but it's the process that will be the best result and the safest way for everyone to do this," Kelly said.

Albers said Pierce and Goodhue county officials have been discussing for years ways to appropriately tackle the inmate issue.

Talks resumed again recently as both sheriffs try to increase revenues in the midst of county budget issues.

Albers currently boards inmates from all over southeastern Minnesota, including Winona and Houston counties. Albers will likely lose those boarders this winter, however, when Wabasha County opens its new multi-million dollar jail.

The sheriff said this week it "makes sense" for Pierce County to house extra inmates in Red Wing.

"We have space and we'll take 'em," Albers said.

Hove can house 29 inmates at her aging facility.

The sheriff said she ships more and more prisoners to Dunn and Pepin county jails - which are further away than Goodhue County - as the number of inmates each year rises.

On Tuesday, Hove had 28 prisoners housed in other nearby facilities.

Hove said Goodhue County's per diem rate for boarding prisoners may not be cheaper than what she's currently paying but the jail's close proximity is a big benefit.

"The handiness of it is the big thing," she said.