The Mille Lacs County Jail has had its problems over the years.
But as of late, the jail has not been generating any worrisome headlines, instead making news that Sheriff Brent Lindgren and the county’s jail administrator Lt. Mike Smith are proud of – 100 percent compliance ratings by the state.
It is the best possible rating for the 152-bed jail and it recognizes the jail’s compliance in 125 mandatory rules and the remaining 101 essential areas.
Lindgren, sheriff since 2003, complimented the jail’s command and line staff officers for their part in making the high scores possible. The jail has 40 plus correctional staff members.
“I feel great,” Smith said of the compliance ratings.
He agrees with Lindgren that the newer part of the jail is less challenging to manage than the older section. The newer part is designed so that correctional officers are on the same side of the cell wall as the prisoners. That way, the officers can react faster to any problems, Smith said.
Correctional officers are trained to recognize signs that a fight could break out among inmates, Smith said. The officers learn to be sensitive to such things as the atmosphere being “too quiet or too noisy,” or if there is grouping going on, he said.
The first section of the jail was completed in 1976, and the first addition arrived 23 years later in the spring of 1999. It was a 60-bed minimum security section with a big dorm-type sleeping arrangement. The old part was remodeled and became the jail’s higher security section.
Today the jail has 36 beds in medium/maximum, 60 in minimum security where prisoners may be in a Huber program to be out of jail during the day for a job, and then there is the 56-bed Tango addition completed about seven years ago for female prisoners.
The earliest renditions of the jail did not have electronic locks, and sometime during the late 1970s, a prisoner named Robert Young McCullough, who was to be convicted of murder, hit one of the jail staff members over the head. He escaped and two days later was captured in a manhunt.
One of the major improvements at the jail was to build an enclosed passageway for moving prisoners between the courthouse and the jail.
Since then, a justice center has been built and a person can get to that through the old courthouse. By having an enclosed passageway, the prisoner is not taken outside, where there might be more opportunities for escape.
Being a correctional officer isn’t for everybody, said Smith. He told about how one man who was being trained for the job at the Mille Lacs County Jail quit after the first day of training. The training is a two-week class where the new hires learn self-defense, interpersonal communications and delivering medications, Smith said. The officers next receive a little time on the jail floor and then four to eight weeks of field training in the jail, he said.
The location of the jail where inmates are placed is determined by a point system that looks at a lot of factors including their criminal background.
While the prisoners are watched, the correctional officers are also, so to speak.
Smith said someone audits the records of the correctional officers’ rounds to determine if what the record states is accurate, Smith said.
The officers show, with their work and resulting ratings, they are not taking anything for granted.