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Troubled North Dakota Jail to be Reviewed by Feds

The Lake Region Law Enforcement Center (LEC) in North Dakota is a multijurisdictional jail supported by six entities, including the City of Devils Lake and the counties of Benson, Eddy, Nelson, Ramsey and Towner. The center rents office space to the Ramsey County Sheriff’s Department, Devils Lake Police Department and Lake Region 911. Nearby local governments pay a per diem rate to house prisoners at the facility.

Tom Rime, the head administrator at LEC, announced on April 6, 2016 that inspectors would soon arrive from the U.S. Department of Justice’s National Institute of Corrections to “go through our jail with a fine tooth comb.” Faced with a slew of problems, including guard misconduct, an escape and staff shortages, Rime turned to the federal agency for help.

The problems at LEC began in 2014 when guard Jonathan Defoe was accused of, and eventually pleaded guilty to, having sexual contact with a prisoner. Jail administrator Denny Deegan was fired following that incident and other problems at LEC, including staff shortages. In early 2015, then-guard Rachel Marie Chepulis helped prisoner Wesley E. Brown III escape; she was sentenced to 40 months in prison in September 2015. Meanwhile, in May 2015, a prisoner died in a detox cell just hours after being booked.

Perhaps the largest problem facing Rime is the inability to keep LEC full. The scandals and security lapses led to the loss of a contract with the federal Bureau of Indian Affairs to house juveniles and a dramatic decrease in adult prisoners, resulting in a budget deficit. “I still feel that our overall kind of budgetary plan is too closely tied to what the number of any given inmates we have at any given time, and that’s a bigger issue that still needs to be addressed by all the member counties and the city of Devils Lake,” Rime stated.


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