(Fargo, ND) -- As the COVID-19 pandemic arrived, Cass County Government in North Dakota says they made sure the safety of residents in the area, and the safety of their employees took priority over anything else.
That being said, decisions were made for the jail, like masking, hand sanitizer stations and sneeze guards, to prioritize creating safe operating spaces and to address growing concerns with areas where social distancing was a challenge. And now, work continues on a whole new avenue to keep employees, inmates and the community safe.
“From the beginning, this was uncharted territory. From jail staff to child protection services to managing an election in a pandemic - sending all employees home to work remotely was not an option,” stated Cass County Administrator Robert Wilson. “We had to adapt, be creative and ask our amazing workforce to meet a new level of challenges. And they did.”
The intake area at the Cass County Jail was one focus of the American Rescue Plan Act funds made available to the county. That area needed more space and additional temporary holding cells to ensure that Cass County Jail employees and inmates had the ability to be socially distanced throughout the booking process. There have been times throughout the pandemic when the number of inmates at the jail has put stress on the space available and put county employees in difficult positions. The expansion project is effectively doubling capacity for all things booking related, it will also double the amount of holding cells from 10 to 20 and increase the number of safety cells for suicidal inmates from one to three. Employee workspace will also double and add capacity for a second fingerprinting station, second intoxilyzer apparatus, second interview room, and two additional attorney contact visiting rooms.
“Expansion of the jail intake area was a necessary project even before the COVID-19 pandemic began," said Wilson. "The arrival of COVID-19, and the need to safely separate new arrivals during the medical screening process, elevated this project to a critical need. The use of ARPA funds enabled us to expedite both the planning and construction process, and the completed expansion will improve our ability to safely manage the intake process while also better equipping our team to keep inmates, and each other, safe.”
As for where we're at today with the project, Wilson says construction on the Jail Intake project began in May, and will be completed in the late Spring, early Summer of 2022.