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Cass County sheriff warns jail is nearing capacity

FARGO — With 310 inmates being held in the Cass County Jail, the facility is only 40 detainees shy of maximum capacity.

On average, 22 inmates are coming in every day, and 20 are leaving, Cass County Sheriff Jesse Jahner said

He said the number of inmates has been much higher before, but the pandemic is complicating things.

There was a backlog from months when several institutions, including the courthouse, were shut down due to the pandemic, he said. Most people charged with less severe crimes were released, but they're expected to return for court dates.

Jail safety measures taken to prevent coronavirus transmission are also blamed for slowing things down.

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"If we can't isolate people and COVID gets back in the general population, then we're looking at a whole different situation," Jahner explained.

Cass County isn't alone; other jails nationwide are facing similar predicaments. Even the state penitentiary is filling up fast, he said.

"It's a constant, if you want to say, moving checkers around to get people in there. On any given weekend, a busy one, we could get 20 to 25 people come in, so we can't go over that 348 capacity," Jahner said.

The sheriff is in contact with other holding facilities to use if they hit capacity, and if the jail is full, people will still be held accountable for their crimes.

"It's not like you're getting off scot-free, so to speak," Jahner said. "They're eventually going to have to come back and answer to the warrant that's out for them."

Jahner believes the flow of inmates will even out over time, but exactly when that will happen is hard to predict.

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