Many of the names of the Counties pay tribute to the history of exploration in the state. Ten counties have Native American related names. Another Fifteen have names related to geographical features of the land. On October 27, 1849 the first nine counties were established. Benton, Dahkotah, Itasca, Ramsey, Mahkahta, Pembina, Wabasha, Washington, and Wahnata. Only Benton, Dakota, Itasca, Ramsey, Wabasha, and Washington still exist as their original names. Lake of the Woods County was the last and final county to be established in 1923.
County sheriffs in Minnesota are elected to four year terms. Duties include serving warrants, supervising deputies and other staff, operating the jail (if the county has one), maintaining security of the local courts, and collecting fees for judgements. Although the sheriff has jurisdiction over the entire county, most sheriff’s departments tend to operate largely in the rural areas of a county, leaving law enforcement within city limits in the hands of the local police.
Each of the state’s 87 county sheriff’s departments has a website (with the exception of Swift County) where you may find contact information for the department. Most websites have a prisoner lookup tool or list of current inmates, along with a photo and other information such as arrest date, charges, and expected release date.
There are a few counties which do not operate jails, but rather contract for services from a neighboring county, and there are also counties which have more than one jail facility. Some jails are used only for 72-hour holds, and some provide for stays of up to 90 days, usually for pretrial or pre-sentenced inmates. Most jails are used to hold sentenced inmates for less than one year, with the exception of some multiple DWI offenders; however, 32 counties in the state have contracted to provide community correctional services. This means that the counties receive extra funding from the state to operate their own detention centers, either within each county or with a group of contiguous counties, which can house prisoners sentenced to more than one year. Inmates in community corrections are lower level offenders. Those convicted of violent felonies or more serious crimes are held in state prison facilities. Counties (or groups of counties) participating in the community corrections program must have a population of 30,000 or greater. Hennepin, Ramsey, and St. Louis counties have Adult Corrections Facilities which are essentially workhouses holding prisoners who participate on work details in the county.
State laws differ in what information is considered public and what is held as private. In Minnesota, data on criminal convictions is public for 15 years following the completion of the sentence. Public information includes the offense, date of the offense, court of conviction, date of the conviction, sentence, level of conviction, and probation agency or place of incarceration. The public information does not include an individual’s arrest history. To find information on an inmate, visit the appropriate county page on this website and use the contact information there for the local sheriff’s department. If you are unable to find an inmate through the local sheriff’s website or by calling the department for information, you may want to try using the search tool provided by the Minnesota Bureau of Criminal Apprehension (BCA).