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Dave Olson, Published January 07 2014

F-M jails careful when releasing prisoners in cold weather

MOORHEAD – When the temperature plummets, what happens to local jail populations?

Do people break the law on the prospect of a warm bed and three square meals?

Do they hold off on bailing out for the same reasons?

No and no, according to local jail administrators who say their biggest concern is making sure released prisoners have a warm place to go.

“We are more careful when we release people. That is our biggest thing, making sure they have a ride at the door and a place to go, warm clothes,” said Julie Savat, administrator at the Clay County Jail in Moorhead.

Capt. Judy Tollefson, administrator at the Cass County Jail in Fargo, echoed Savat’s sentiments.

“People don’t want to be here,” Tollefson said, adding that she has not heard of any recent cases where someone broke the law to secure a warm place to stay.

“Probably the only thing we see that we track more carefully is our work-release people,” Tollefson added.

“A lot of time they don’t have transportation, so they walk. We try to check in with them to make sure they’re not walking in this weather,” Tollefson said.

Savat said people sometimes are arrested when the weather is nice and are released after the weather has changed.

In such cases, she said, the jail provides released prisoners with warm clothing donated by organizations such as the Salvation Army and Churches United for the Homeless.

Sometimes, Savat added, emails are sent out to Clay County employees asking for donations of winter apparel.

“We try to keep a stock supply here,” Savat said. “We like to make sure people have warm clothes.”

Readers can reach Forum reporter

Dave Olson at (701) 241-5555