Media release: Ramsey County justice collaborative works to protect public safety and health during COVID-19 pandemic

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Ramsey County justice collaborative works
to protect public safety and health
during COVID-19 pandemic

As soon as the COVID-19 pandemic emerged in Ramsey County, partners across the justice system began taking immediate action to address public health risks in our detention and correctional facilities to significantly reduce the possibility of virus transmission. We realized early on that an outbreak in our facilities would not only impact staff and the people incarcerated but could quickly make its way into our larger community.

Since mid-March, the population of Ramsey County’s Adult Detention Center (jail) has been reduced by 54%, and the population of the Ramsey County Correctional Facility (workhouse) has been reduced by 55%. We were able to respond quickly to the pandemic, ensuring public safety while protecting public health, and achieve such significant reductions due to a strong tradition of collaboration over the past two decades on everything from strengthening protections for victims of domestic violence through the Blueprint for Safety to reducing detention of our youth through the Juvenile Detention Alternatives Initiative (JDAI) to improving our response to adults through the Criminal Justice Coordinating Council (CJCC).

Together, we are making informed decisions about who needs to be detained because they represent a serious threat to public safety and who can safely be released and supervised via tools like electronic home monitoring and probation staff.

Steps partners have taken include:

  • Finding alternatives to detention for those who have committed minor offenses.
  • The Sheriff’s Office reviewing current jail logs for immediate, appropriate release opportunities.
  • The County Attorney’s and Saint Paul City Attorney’s Offices working with the Public Defender’s Office to review and resolve low-level cases in accordance with newly-drafted Second Judicial District guidance.
  • Community Corrections working closely with the Second Judicial District Bench in order to develop appropriate release authority to safely minimize the population at the Ramsey County Correctional Facility.
  • Law enforcement from across Ramsey County working with Sheriff’s staff to ensure those brought to jail are only those who are a threat to themselves or others, will likely continue criminal activity, or likely not appear in court.

A new “Justice System collaboration and response to COVID-19” section is now available in the COVID-19 section of the Ramsey County website ( with a comprehensive list of actions underway during the pandemic to protect public safety and health. The page will continue to be updated in the weeks ahead as additional measures are taken by justice system partners.

Statements from collaborative partners

"Ramsey County is committed to working with our justice partners to ensure the health and safety of all residents during this pandemic. We’re grateful for the continued collaboration as this unique moment helps advance our work on critically needed justice reforms, further building upon the foundation we’ve put in place through the Juvenile Detention Alternatives Initiative, Deep End Reform and Criminal Justice Coordinating Council over the past decade. The actions we collectively take today will accelerate long-term permanent solutions that create a more equitable system with improved outcomes for all."
-Toni Carter, Chair, Ramsey County Board of Commissioners

“In January 2019, the Sheriff’s Office put in motion a bold blueprint for detention reform centered on both the human needs of those involved in the justice system as well as public safety. This is one of the many reform examples we’re working on every day to eliminate inequities, promote justice, and achieve long-term public safety reform.”
-Bob Fletcher, Ramsey County Sheriff

“We have an obligation to protect the safety and wellbeing of everyone in our community – that includes people who are currently incarcerated. I could not be prouder of how our various agencies in Ramsey County understood and acted upon these values as we collaborated and mobilized our efforts to respond to the COVID-19 pandemic. These actions are consistent with many of the public safety and justice reforms we have put into place in Ramsey County over the past decade, which have resulted in significant reductions in our reliance on incarceration while crime rates have fallen.”
-John Choi, Ramsey County Attorney

"Our attorneys and staff worked with the Sheriff’s Office, the County Attorney and the Ramsey County District Bench to provide accurate information so that public safety and public health could be assessed during this pandemic. Collaboratively through consolation and bail hearings we worked with our partners to reduce the population in the jail by more than half. Ultimately we believe this to be in the best interest of the community and its public health."
-Jim Fleming, Chief Public Defender

“The Saint Paul City Attorney’s Office remains committed to seeking equitable justice through compassionate accountability. Responding to public health concerns around COVID-19, and the people in the Ramsey County jail has accelerated our timeline on justice reform initiatives already in progress. That said, we cannot, and will not, go backwards. This crisis is a test of our community, but also an opportunity, and we as justice partners have come together to support change. We will get through this pandemic together, and when we do, our commitment to bail reform and reduced custody rates for those people detained on low level, non-violent offenses will remain.”
-Lyndsey Olson, Saint Paul City Attorney


Media contacts:

Dennis Gerhardstein, Ramsey County Attorney’s Office, 651-600-1830

Kyle Mestad, Ramsey County Sheriff’s Office, 651-266-9523

Allison Winters, Ramsey County, 651-401-5703