Chapter 7: Ramsey County, Minnesota


Ramsey County, Minnesota, has a population of 538,133 (2015 U.S. Census Bureau). Its county seat is Saint Paul, which is also Minnesota’s state capital. Its racial makeup is 69.3% white, 11.9% black or African American, 14.4% Asian, and 7.4% Hispanic or Latino of any race (2015 U.S. Census Bureau). The median household income is $56,104, and 15.1% of the population lives at or below the poverty line (2015 U.S. Census Bureau).

Ramsey County has more than a dozen law enforcement agencies, including the Ramsey County Sheriff’s Office (Minnesota’s first law enforcement agency) and Saint Paul Police Department. The Saint Paul Police Department, the county’s largest law enforcement agency, averages about 247,000 calls for service a year (City of Saint Paul Police Crime Report 2015). The Ramsey County Sheriff’s Office runs the Adult Detention Center (ADC), a 500-bed facility that houses pretrial defendants and probation and parole violators. The sheriff’s office is also responsible for providing court services (court security, warrants, civil process, gun permits, and summons bookings), protecting the county’s waterways, and delivering community services. Ramsey County is a Community Corrections Act county; as such, the county is administratively responsible for providing misdemeanor and felony probation and parole supervision and correctional services. The community corrections department is responsible for operating the Ramsey County Correctional Facility, a 556-bed post-conviction institution, housing inmates serving sentences of one year or less.

The county attorney and the county sheriff are elected every four years, while judges are elected every six years. Appointed criminal justice leaders include the director of community corrections, the chief public defender, city attorneys, and city chiefs of police.

  Profile of Ramsey County’s Justice System


  Adult Detention Center Bookings (Pretrial)


  Adult Detention Center Daily Population


  County Correctional Facility Bookings (Post-Conviction)


  County Correctional Facility Daily Population


  Felony Cases Filed


  Misdemeanor Cases Filed


  Adult Community Corrections Admissions


  Adult Community Corrections Population Served


Ramsey County’s past experiences working on successful interagency initiatives, such as the Juvenile Detention Alternatives Initiative (JDAI) and the St. Paul Blueprint for Safety, led to its selection as a pilot site.


As an EBDM pilot site, Ramsey County’s criminal justice leaders agreed to work together to address broad systemic policy issues. The Ramsey County EBDM Policy Team included the following stakeholders:

  • the county sheriff;
  • the county attorney;
  • a county commissioner;
  • the chief judge of the Second Judicial District Court;
  • the county community corrections director;
  • the chief of the Saint Paul Police Department;
  • the chief public defender of the Second Judicial District Court;
  • the city attorney for the City of Saint Paul;
  • the county pretrial services executive director;
  • the county chief deputy sheriff;
  • the first assistant county attorney;
  • a deputy city attorney for the City of Saint Paul;
  • the executive director of the state Office of Justice Programs; and
  • representatives from victim services organizations.

Ramsey County’s vision for the EBDM initiative is: “One less crime. One less victim. One less offender. A strategy for safer communities.”


“The policy review, system mapping, and data analysis exercises required as part of this initiative were valuable. Each exercise served to foster teamwork and collaboration. Through these assessments, we were able to identify areas for improvement and establish performance metrics to ensure outcomes were consistent with community values.”

–Kyle Mestad, Director of Planning & Policy, Ramsey County Sheriff’s Office

As the Ramsey County Policy Team worked through the EBDM Phase II planning roadmap, they assessed their policies and practices at each of the EBDM decision points through a systemwide mapping exercise and considered the degree to which their decisions were informed by research. The result was the identification of a number of strengths, challenges, and targets for policy and practice change. The team created work groups to focus on three substantive areas: arrest and law enforcement, pretrial diversion, and pleas and sentencing. The individual work groups developed logic models and implementation plans, and advanced recommendations for policy and practice change to the EBDM policy team. Two of the efforts prioritized by the policy team in support of achieving their harm reduction goals are the focus of this case study:

  • expanding eligibility for a misdemeanor diversion program; and
  • developing structured responses to pretrial violations.


“The principles established during our EBDM journey created an ongoing mutual commitment to continuously improve our justice system. Specifically, we founded the Criminal Justice Coordinating Council (CJCC) and harnessed the momentum created through EBDM. As a result, we are continuing to improve our short-term and long-term criminal justice outcomes.”
–Matt Bostrom, Ramsey County Sheriff and First Chair of the CJCC

Through the EBDM process, members of the Ramsey County Policy Team recognized the importance of meeting regularly to discuss criminal justice system issues and practices. They also agreed to the importance of information and data to support problem solving and effective decision making. Using the EBDM policy team as a foundation, the county’s criminal justice leaders formed a Criminal Justice Coordinating Council (CJCC); its membership includes multidisciplinary leadership from across the justice system. It serves as a permanent decision making body officially sanctioned by the Board of Commissioners and the Second Judicial District. The CJCC meets regularly. In 2015, priorities for the CJCC included reducing the number of active warrants in the county (including holding a Warrant Resolution Day), enhancing performance measures, improving data integration across the county’s justice agencies, and improving communication and community engagement.