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Here's Looking at Crime and Punishment in Roseau County

by Jeff Olsen

Doing "hard time" is sitting in a cell day after day in the Roseau County Detention Center.

You could be a millionaire or a pauper but if you are arrested and denied bail, you're doing hard time.

And forget your $150 pair of loafers and fancy clothes or just a couple of worn-out shoes and those Goodwill specials.

You're in orange.

Last week, Roseau County Sheriff Steve Gust and Chief Deputy Sheriff Tobi Eidsmoe provided a bird's-eye view of crime in the county.

"It's ticking up there again. I can see more in Warroad and Roseau. There are more crime areas in those cities," said Sheriff Gust, adding that in the larger populations there are usually more crimes.

Is it because outsiders are moving into the area?

"It's the nature of the beast. The more people you got, the more problems you have. It's not only the outsiders. It's also people who have been here for a while," said Gust.

And some are born here.

If there's an arrest and no bail, they go directly to jail until they have their day in court - and that's no guarantee they will be released.

Have TVs in their cells?

"Not in their cells, but there is a TV in every dayroom," said Eidsmoe.

The protocol for the prisoners is they are locked down in their cells at 10 p.m.

It's lights out, too.

It's not fancy living.

Each cell has two bunk beds and a toilet.

Additionally, the jailers do a well-being check every half hour 24/7.

The bigger cells hold up to eight prisoners. There are cameras in every cell.

"Three of the cells have two floors," said the chief deputy, adding that there is a bathroom both upstairs and downstairs. The only pod that holds women is the D pod.

Are there any fights among the prisoners?

"Oh, definitely."

For fiscal year 2023, the Roseau County Commissioners budgeted $1.6 million for the detention facility.

Prisoners can have visitation privileges with their relatives and friends. They talk to each other through the glass via phones.

"As of today, there are 15 in the detention center. Tomorrow, there could be 17 or 18. Who knows?" said Eidsmoe, a week ago Thursday.

And yes, there can be intentional damage at the jail, which can result in additional time to their stay.

"They stuff things down the toilets. It happens all the time," he said, mentioning that the department either has to hire a plumber or have one of the maintenance personnel tend to the problem.

"Sometimes, they're busting our phones, sometimes they're busting chairs."

What's the punishment?

"We'll lock them down in their cells and they can sit for a few days."

It can be lonely. No radios are allowed in the inner cells.

There are some amenities at the Roseau County Detention Center.

"They do have texting items, much like a cellphone. They have to pay so much a day and can text," said Eidsmoe.

Be advised!

You can't just text away planning a breakout.

"Everything is recorded and all their phone calls are recorded except for their conversations with their attorneys."

When Judge Donna Dixon declares that you go directly to jail, you can't request a quick leave of absence to rush home to pick up your favorite socks and underwear.

"We provide all of that," said Mr. Eidsmoe, listing socks and underwear, a toothbrush and toothpaste.

It's similar for the women with a few exceptions - panties, bras, and feminine hygiene products.

The standard footwear is a pair of orange rubber sandals, again provided by the county taxpayers.

Prisoners are allowed pencil and paper and can bring books to their cells from the detention center library.

What they aren't allowed are tobacco products. It's cold turkey once they are behind bars at the Roseau County Detention Center.

It's home for however long they are there. Some are awaiting further court dates, some could be sent to prison, and a rare few face extradition to another state for crimes committed there.

Still, Roseau County doesn't jump out as crime-ridden or a particularly dangerous area.

"There have been only two murders in Roseau County since 2012," said Sheriff Gust.

Contrast that with Minneapolis on an average weekend when there are multiple shootings and murders.

"The last murder was on New Year's Day 2020 when Angelo Borreson shot and killed Angela Wynne," said Eidsmoe.

Both Roseau County murders were committed in the Badger area - not in the bigger cities of Roseau and Warroad.

In 2012, Desiree Shinholser and Jeremy Lemen murdered John Currier inside the Badger city limits.

Staying the Course

The sheriff added that certain offenses are handled differently here than in other areas.

"We don't tolerate a lot of stuff, so therefore they get charged. That's maybe a difference of culture. Crime's a crime. We adjust for that. If they need to be in jail, they're in jail."

He was asked about domestic assault crimes - even strangulations.

"It's a combination of drugs and alcohol. That's where the focus is, and we try to eliminate some of the problems. You're not going to eliminate all of it. You just try to get ahead of the game."

What does it cost the county to detain an inmate per day.

"It isn't cheap - more than 100 bucks a day. I'd have to break that down between employees, food and medical," he said, noting that an inmate might need medical treatment.

The county can get caught footing the bill for prisoners who don't have medical coverage.

The 2023 budget for the entire law enforcement center including the jail is $3.4 million, according to Chief Deputy Tobi Eidsmoe.

"Drugs are bad, and everything focuses on drugs. Burglaries and assaults are usually because of drugs," he said.

Whenever there is a crime in Warroad or Roseau, there is cooperation between those city police departments and the Roseau County Sheriff's Department.

"We will assist them whenever we can. A lot of times they will handle it on their own. We'll help out with search warrants. That's part of their tax dollars, too," said Gust.

This year's budget for the jail is $1.66 million and, for the sheriff side, it's $1.77 million.

Across the state, the jail is the most expensive part of law enforcement, according to Sheriff Gust.

"It's getting worse with the cost of everything. Technology has skyrocketed. You're paying more for good quality staff. We're very fortunate up here to have the people on hand. Yeah, it's costly. That's the way it is in this day and age."

What's going well in the county?

"You have to be grateful for the quality of life we have up here with the public. Number one, we represent them. The demeanor of people up here is different from your big metro areas. It's a whole different world."

He was asked about the possible rise in shoplifting during these times of exorbitant grocery prices and everything else

"I don't see it getting out of hand."

Nobody is going to suspect a sweet old lady of shoving a handful of candy bars into her pockets.

"I can't say it's getting out of hand."

The chief is not discouraged.

"Always, I'm looking for things to improve. The cost of living comes at a cost as far as law enforcement. We're in a pretty peaceful part of the country and are working to keep crime down to a minimum. It's not going to end, but we're going to keep trying to do our best."

Once, meth was the big scourge in the county. Now, it's fentanyl and cocaine, according to Gust.

"We now have DARE in every school in the county. Education is a big part of drug avoidance. Parents have to be parents, and that's where the education starts. Our number one goal is to work with the public. That's a positive way to look at law enforcement."


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