City saves $400,000 on reduced booking fees

Plan might also make criminal records more accurate

The city of Minneapolis will save $400,000 because Hennepin County eliminated jail booking fees Jan. 1. The city will instead pay a less-expensive fingerprinting fee and a per-diem charge to hold prisoners.

The city has had a booking agreement with the county since 1968, requiring them to pay the county a lump sum each time someone in Minneapolis is booked on a misdemeanor offense at a county jail. City officials sought to terminate the contract last July and negotiate new terms.

Costs have risen annually for 36 years, to account for the cost of booking services such as holding and fingerprinting. Last year, Minneapolis paid $251 per person to book in county jail - a $2-million-plus annual cost.

Jerry Driessen, coordinator for the county's Criminal Justice Coordinating Committee, said the county will charge cities $75 for fingerprinting for targeted misdemeanors (including domestic assaults), gross misdemeanors, felonies and fugitive from justice charges - if cities do not fingerprint these offenders themselves. The arresting city will be responsible for paying the fee.

Driessen said in addition to saving the city $400,000, the new system would improve criminal prosecution.

He said no one had fingerprinted these individuals because they are not always held in jail. However, Driessen said, the statewide criminal database will not accept incomplete criminal data - so if a person's fingerprints are missing, the person's criminal report will not be accepted into the database.

He said then when the city and/or county prosecuted the offender, a person's complete criminal record might not show up in the state database, due to the missing prints. If the record showed fewer offenses, the offender might get a lighter sentence than he or she deserved.

"The positives out of this are the city of saves money, we improve the finger-printing practice to improve public safety and we got rid of an outdated policy agreement," Driessen said.