Beltrami County jail ordered to reduce capacity by Wednesday

The Minnesota Department of Corrections has ordered the Beltrami County Jail to comply with a capacity reduction plan.

Based on documented findings, the DOC ordered the reduction of capacity by Wednesday, according to an announcement.

"Out of immediate concern for the safety of both staff and the people in custody, I’ve ordered the Beltrami County Jail to reduce the licensed capacity of the facility," DOC Commissioner Paul Schnell said in a statement Tuesday. "When life safety is an issue, we must take swift and decisive action," Schnell added.

According to the conditional license order, a DOC inspector reviewed the staffing levels at the Beltrami County Jail and determined it did not meet the minimum staffing levels required under Minnesota Rule 291 0900 on 35 of 52 shifts.

The action occurred after the DOC received a complaint stemming from a January 24, 2023, incident where emergency medical care was delayed after a suicide attempt, according to the announcement.

The DOC subsequently discovered multiple violations of minimum staffing levels, and attempts to prevent medical transport for emergency care and delay of medical transport for emergency care in direct violation of Minnesota’s jail standards.

According to the order, the DOC will reduce the jail’s operational bed capacity from 80 to 72 inmates until May 31, 2024, or until further order.

In 2019, Hardel Sherrell died in the Beltrami jail, with his family later calling the death "egregious" and "disgusting" due to the lack of care from jail staff prior to his death. 

The Beltrami County Sheriff told FOX 9 that Sherrell died from an unknown medical condition after collapsing and becoming unresponsive in the presence of a corrections officer and a medical technician.

Sherrell was the third death in the Beltrami County facility in the previous three years at the time.