Jail's visitation system to be addressed

WORTHINGTON -- After denying a request from Sheriff Kent Wilkening last summer to budget money for replacing the video visitation system at Prairie Justice Center, Nobles County commissioners face a more dire situation today.

WORTHINGTON -- After denying a request from Sheriff Kent Wilkening last summer to budget money for replacing the video visitation system at Prairie Justice Center, Nobles County commissioners face a more dire situation today.

Wilkening, along with jail administrator Monette Soderholm, came before commissioners on Tuesday to report the system, which has been in place since PJC opened, is down to one visiting booth for its maximum-security inmates. The system was installed in every pod area -- for a total of 16 booths -- six years ago.

The booths allow maximum-security inmates to have visitation time through the use of handsets and computer monitors.

"We have inmates who can't leave their cell because of the nature of their crime or because of bad behavior," Wilkening said. "We've gotten to the point where we have no (visitation system for them)."

Jail facilities are mandated to provide visitation rights to inmates, and Soderholm said visitations are often used as a means of getting an inmate to comply while serving time.


"I think we're opening up the county for huge liability issues if we don't replace (the system)," Wilkening said.

The last time Wilkening requested a quote for replacement of the visitation system, the cost was approximately $69,000. He is requesting $20,000 be budgeted in both 2008 and 2009 to help cover the costs.

"We can pretty much pay what we owe on this through phone revenues," Wilkening said, adding it may take a few years to get it paid for by doing it that way.

Soderholm said 11 of the inmates currently housed in PJC are considered maximum security. Of those, five are classified as special management, meaning they cannot have contact with anyone.

"In order to give them the same visitation rights, we've had to take them down (to the visiting area) without others around," Soderholm said.

Doing so is not only a safety concern, but also time consuming for jailers, who are required to be present for the entire 20-minute visitation period, she added.

The visitation system Wilkening and Soderholm request funding for would allow for future capabilities to conduct remote visitations between inmates and individuals such as probation officers.

"The system is expandable," Soderholm said.


Commissioner Norm Gallagher suggested Wilkening request a new bid for the visitation system and return to the next county board meeting with the information.

"I think it's certainly something we need to consider and look at," Gallagher said.

In other action, the board:

* Approved a conditional use permit for the Lao Temple Siri Buddharam to be located permanently on a site in the northwest quarter of Section 16, Worthington Township.

* Awarded Duininck Bros. of Prinsburg the contract for bituminous surfacing on several sections of roadway in Nobles County in 2008. Duininck Bros. submitted the low bid of $1,734.243.02, well under the engineer's estimate of $2,385,542.75.

* Accepted a bid from Aero-Metrics for conducting aerial photography and mapping services. Aero-Metrics submitted the lowest of three bids for the project, at $68,556. The cost will be shared, with the City of Worthington to pay $16,905 and the county to pay the remainder.

The aerial photographs and maps will be used by emergency management, the assessor's office, public works and environmental services.

* Received an update from the Department of Natural Resources Slayton Area Wildlife Manager Wendy Krueger regarding drainage concerns on recently-acquired land in Wilmont Township.


Krueger met with affected landowners and their concerns have been addressed, she reported.

* Approved several permits for solid waste and recycling hauling.

* Reappointed Gerald Duerr to a three-year term on the Nobles County Extension Committee.

* Approved an advance payment request from the Okabena-Ocheda Watershed District for the first half of their 2008 levy. The auditor's recommendation of $50,000 was approved.

* Approved a $921 boat and water safety grant from the State of Minnesota. In exchange for the grant dollars, the county must submit a resolution to the state.

Julie Buntjer became editor of The Globe in July 2021, after working as a beat reporter at the Worthington newspaper since December 2003. She has a bachelor's degree in agriculture journalism from South Dakota State University.
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