Beltrami County Jail Tour

Eight Indivisible Bemidji members recently took part in a tour of the Beltrami County Jail.   The tour had been offered by Sheriff Riggs during a fall member meeting that was held prior to the new jail referendum. The tour was led by Calandra Allen, who is the Beltrami County jail administrator. Sheriff Riggs was also present.

The tour included how inmates are processed to be admitted to the jail, surveillance, housing, food, medical and social services. Discussions also included challenges with staff hiring and retention, space, drug addiction, inadequate mental health facilities, recidivism, and the lack of access to sunlight, which affects both inmates and staff.

Sheriff Riggs spoke highly of the person who assists offenders when they return to their homes. He stated she had significantly impacted decreasing their recidivism rates and wished he had additional resources in this department.

Our members asked excellent questions regarding staff training, medical care, GED offerings, books provided, mental health, culturally appropriate programs, new jail proposals, jail venders, the previous Sentence-to-Serve program, and why more non-violent offenders are not offered non-jail alternatives, etc.

Overall, our members were pleased with the tour and impressed with the administrator’s passion for her work. We were grateful for the ability to see and learn about a part of our community that is typically not in the public consciousness…unless there is bad press….or, of course, a new jail referendum.

One member said: “I was impressed with the time taken to show us the current jail and explain its obvious shortcomings. Clearly a new jail is needed–there’s no question about that.  Calandra made the shortcomings clear: not enough space (for both inmates and staff), lack of daylight, and lack of exercise space.  The tour participants were interested in knowing how they could support/volunteer to help the current inmates. In terms of the new jail construction, it is disappointing that a majority of the County Commissioners have defaulted to the cliché that the new jail “should not be a country club.” The tour guide spoke to prisoner’s mental health needs, making the point that better mental health (supported by daylight, exercises, programming, etc.) would result in shorter stays and possibly less recidivism. In short, incarceration in the county, and in America, needs a new vision. Hopefully the new jail in Beltrami County will not repeat mistakes of the past.”

If you are interested in touring the jail with a group, or have an interest in being involved in programs for jail inmates, contact Calandra Allen at: