Northeast District Judge, LEC Administrator address work release, other issues

Staff Writer
Devils Lake Journal
The Lake Region Law Enforcement Center, which houses U.S. Marshals inmates and Federal Bureau of Prisons inmates, as well as inmates from the region.

Recently the Journal reported on two stories involving inmates on work release who failed to return in the same week.

On Tuesday, Feb. 2, it was reported that Claude Black, Jr. had failed to return from work release and would be charged with escape upon recapture. Black, Jr. was eventually caught after leading officers on a high-speed pursuit.

That same week, it was reported that Jessica Logan had also failed to return from work release and would be charged with escape.

To go into more detail about how work release functions and inmates who are charged with escape while out of LEC custody, LEC Administrator Tom Rime and District Court Judge Donovan Foughty agreed to an interview in order to discuss these issues further.

Foughty went into detail on several points related to work release and those who fail to return.

“It isn’t an escape, because they’re not in the custody of the Law Enforcement Center at the time they walked away. They just refused to return to the custody of the Law Enforcement Center,” Foughty said.

“It’s charged as an escape; but the escape, from a technical standpoint, starts from the time they were supposed to be in custody and refused to return.”

Rime went into detail about the inmates who are housed at the LEC. “We have folks from a lot of different (agencies). There are a significant number of inmates that are U.S. Marshal inmates, some state Department of Corrections (inmates), Federal Bureau of Prisons inmates.”

“We have no authority to hold anyone. We need a court order, a U.S. Marshal order, (or) Bureau of Prisons order,” Rime said.

Though many inmates are released to look for work, Foughty detailed other reasons inmates may be released.

“The judge has made a decision that this person can go out on work release, go out to treatment. The objective is for folks to get services, such as drug and alcohol treatment, mental health services; we want them to look for a job. If they’re holding down a job, we want them to go to their job,” Foughty said.

Rime discussed a possible deterrent to those who fail to report from work release.

“We use GPS on people at the Re-entry Center, for example, and for other reasons, if it’s ordered by the judge.”

“I think it’s worth a conversation with the judiciary as to whether or not, as policy, when we release somebody we might put somebody on (GPS). If they want to go that bad, they can still cut (the GPS) off.”

“Ultimately, it’s the individual inmate’s decision that’s making this happen,” Rime said.

Another issue is the high recidivism rate in the U.S. compared to a country such as Norway, which Judge Foughty visited along with other North Dakota officials in order to study their approach to incarceration and rehabilitation.

Several statistics illustrate the difference between the Norway approach and the reality in the United States. In the U.S., according to the Bureau of Justice, 33 percent of inmates are arrested within six months of release, while 67 percent are back in custody within three years of release.

The U.S. incarcerates 700 out of every 100,000 citizens, while Norway incarcerates 71 out of 100,000. North Dakota is well below the national average, housing between 200 and 300 inmates in its jails and prisons.

Though different cultures have different approaches to crime, punishment, and rehabilitation, Foughty indicated that the system as it currently operates could be improved.

“The public should understand that people are going to walk away. We’re dealing with a lot of folks with a lot of problems.”

“Let’s say somebody is in custody with the Department of Corrections. They can’t even get services to those folks, because of the law. There’s no funding stream.”

“There’s any number of things we need to do,” Foughty said. “If we had an ideal system, you’d have people coming into the institution to provide psychiatric and psychological assessments and different things. But that’s not our reality at this point.”

Pulled Quote:

“The public should understand that people are going to walk away. We’re dealing with a lot of folks with a lot of problems.”

Donovan Foughty

District Court Judge