Defense Attorney: Access To Inmate Clients Must Improve

Minot, ND - A defense attorney says visitation policies at the Ward County Jail limit attorneys' ability to meet with clients and need to be changed. He made the accusations in court this week.

Patrick Waters is a lead attorney in the Minot office that provides court-appointed counsel for defendants. During a hearing Wednesday, he said there is limited space for attorney-client private meetings at the local jail.

Waters said attorneys can't see inmates on Tuesdays and Thursdays and must make appointments Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays. He cited cases where attorneys made appointments but had to wait a half-hour to actually see the inmate.

Waters didn't want to go on camera, but in court he said the due process rights of the accused are being denied.

Meanwhile, Sheriff Bob Barnard says the appointment process is needed because of limitations of space, staffing, and for public safety. He says the only people allowed to meet face-to-face with an inmate are clergy, a physician, and a defense attorney.

(Bob Barnard, Ward County Sheriff) "And when it comes to the defense attorneys, we encourage them to make an appointment to see their client. They can speak with them on the phone, they can leave a message while they're in jail, or they can do video visitation like the family does. Or they can make an appointment to see their client. Because of the limited space and the "

Barnard says because of the just-completed construction of the new jail - and the current remodeling of the old jail space, there is only one room for attorney-client meetings, causing a scheduling crunch at times.

Attorney Patrick Waters says he will be working with jail officials to improve the system and assure timely meetings between inmates and attorneys, saying, quote, "We gotta get this figured out."

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