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The Fort Peck tribal jail in Poplar began accepting inmates again this week after the facility's heating system broke down during the recent cold snap, forcing officials to release some inmates while transferring others to nearby jails.

It's unclear how long the jail was without heat, but Fort Peck Assiniboine and Sioux Tribes Chief Judge Stacie Smith said Friday that her office began working with jail officials Monday to get inmates relocated. The boilers were again operational as of Thursday, according to Tribal Councilman Rick Kirn, and Tribal Police Chief Jim Summers said Thursday that the jail was accepting inmates.

"We had to rearrange inmates, and some were temporarily released and some were put in other facilities," Smith said. "They reached out to the court and to the judges in order to help facilitate getting inmates placed in jails in the surrounding area."

Whether inmates were temporarily released or kept in custody at a neighboring jail depended on the seriousness of their charges, Kirn said. Those released were required to report back to the jail by Friday at noon, Smith said.

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Temperatures have been unseasonably low in recent months, dropping more than 20 degrees below zero in northeast Montana last weekend. As recently as Wednesday morning, overnight wind chills reached minus 23 degrees in Wolf Point, according to the National Weather Service office in Glasgow.

Jail officials directed requests for information to Warden Ron Jackson, who declined to comment when reached on Friday.

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Morning Reporter

General assignment reporter for the Billings Gazette.