PINE RIVER - Sheriff Randy Fisher reported Tuesday to Cass County commissioners that the sheriff's department has begun to transport prisoners from Crow Wing County to Walker one additional day per week to meet with defense attorneys.
He said Judges John P. Smith and David Harrington, who sit on the Ninth Judicial District bench in Walker, had expressed concern that cases were getting continued, because defense attorneys have had inadequate time to meet with clients since most prisoners have been moved from Walker to Crow Wing County jail.
Until now, prisoners have been brought to Walker only on their court hearing date. Usually, many cases are scheduled the same date. Attorneys, especially public defenders, represent many clients whose cases are heard the same day.
Fisher said this left little time between prisoner hearings for attorneys to meet with each client and discuss their cases before their hearing.
Under the new system, the prisoners will be brought one day during the week before their scheduled hearing from Brainerd to Walker to meet with their attorney.
Fisher said he does not expect there to be excessive additional transportation costs, because the county has two vans that hold quite a few people. Those vans often need to transport prisoners between the two counties anyway, he said.
Public defenders will use more electronic communications with their clients as well, Fisher said.
The board referred to the personnel committee consideration of whether the emergency management director position should be increased from part time to full time.
Minnesota Department of Safety Homeland Security and Emergency Management has asked the county to make this change and offered $20,000 for the first year, $15,000 for the second year and $10,000 the third year to help the county make the transition.
Fisher said the change would involve not only the added cost to fund the other half of the emergency manager's wages, but also involve the cost to fund a half-time dispatcher.
Currently, the part-time emergency management director also works half time as a dispatcher. If he devotes full time to emergency management, it would create a half-time, unfunded dispatcher position, Fisher said.
The sheriff reported Cass was unsuccessful in seeking a federal Department of Justice grant to hire three additional deputies.
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