Calling for change: ‘No more death’ at the Beltrami County Jail

By: News Director Larissa Donovan

A handful of citizens gathered near the Beltrami County Courthouse on Thursday, Sept. 13, to call for changes at the Beltrami County Jail.

Signs of the small group displayed the names of those who have died at the jail in the past couple of years; Stephanie Bunker, Tony May, Jr., and Hardel Sherrell, the most recent death. Sherrell died of “unknown medical condition” on Sunday, Sept. 2, according to a release from the county’s chief deputy, Ernie Bietel.

Aldene Morrison, the mother of May, who died in 2017, said she heard the news of her son’s passing through social media.

“I found out my son was dead from somebody on Facebook,” said Morrison. “It took them 25 minutes to come see me [in Cass Lake] about something else they wanted to talk about, but it took them three hours to tell me about my son.”

Morrison said she attended several meetings that the Beltrami County Sheriff’s Office held shortly after May’s death.

“They said they were going to make changes, where they improved their checking of the cells, to make sure the inmates were safe. If they got hurt they would take care of them, and [corrections officers would] get more training,” said Morrison. “I mean, it’s kind of scary, if you’re going to get training and you keep having people die, something’s wrong here.”

A community effort, Morrison, is what is needed to address the deaths at the jail, and to include more community hearings to discuss what the County Jail is doing to prevent inmate deaths.

“People have to get together to solve these problems of people dying in jail,” said Morrison.

The protest held Thursday was loosely connected to one held outside the metro’s Bureau of Criminal Apprehension Office, which was organized by Sherrell’s family.

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Aldene Morrison, mother of Tony May, Jr., believes the Beltrami County Sheriff’s Office needs to make a change in their practices.
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