BEMIDJI – The historic Beltrami County Courthouse was once used to sentence criminals, but the Beltrami County Jail will soon use the vacant space to expand outpatient services to jail inmates in hopes of lessening the number of repeat offenders.
“How many times have you heard the stories of people finding religion while they are in jail?” Beltrami County Sheriff Phil Hodapp asked at Tuesday’s Beltrami County Board work session. “I have heard that many times in my career it seems like, but as soon as they get out they get right back into their old patterns, one thing leads to another and they get back into custody.”
The jail has worked with the Bemidji Area Program for Recovery, a chemical health and substance abuse service, to provide inmates with their chemical dependency assessments.
But Hodapp said the problem is that some patients are not receiving these assessments until after they have been released from jail because of the lack of space and availability for the BAPF to work with the inmates.
BAPF director Lynn Kistler said that the new space in the old courthouse would allow for an enhancement of services, increasing hours from eight to 20 hours a week, for a program that will last four weeks.
Inmates would get be given their assessments while in custody and would be transferred to the BAPF’s outside facilities after being released from prison for further services.
The Beltrami County Commissioners agreed that the BAPF could utilize the building. The only cost to the county would be the utilities of the vacant court annex as well as some of the painting and cleaning of the space.
Hodapp said the space will be sufficient and hopefully cut down on some of the repeat offenders.
The board agreed to move forward with the recommendation with the request of having an estimated cost of some of the maintenance to get the building up and running.