Hello from St. Paul,
After a recent meeting of Minnesota's Prison Population Task Force where members discussed ways to solve Minnesota's overcrowded prison problem, I invited Minnesota House Public Safety Finance Committee Chairman Tony Cornish and other committee members to tour the Prairie Correctional Facility in Appleton.
Cornish and others visited the prison yesterday and they were impressed by what they saw. Overall the tour was a very positive experience, and it gave committee members the opportunity to have a first-hand look at an affordable and upgraded prison that represents the most common sense answer to our statewide prison population problem. The comment I heard most from members on this visit was "why wouldn't we do this?"
To address the overpopulation issue, Minnesota's correction commissioner has suggested spending $142 million to expand prison facilities at Rush City and Lino Lakes. Up to 600 prisoners could be accommodated with this expansion.
I believe this is nonsensical as the Appleton facility is already built and has prison space for 1,600 inmates. According to the proposal, the State of Minnesota would lease the Prairie Correctional Facility and the Minnesota Department of Corrections would staff and operate it with union workers.
Swift County needs employment opportunities, and reopening the prison would bring many good paying union jobs to our workforce. It is the logical answer to our state's prison issues, and a growing number of state lawmakers are beginning to see it this way. Moving forward, I will continue to prioritize the re-opening of the Appleton prison and build support for the proposal within the Legislature.
As Swift County Commissioner Gary Hendrickx noted: “When the prison closed in 2010, it hit our economy hard. If the State leased and operated the Appleton prison, it could save a lot of money and create hundreds of good jobs in our region. It’s a win-win for the State and the people of West Central Minnesota.”
The Minnesota Senate Capital Investment Committee also recently toured the Prairie Correctional Facility, so members from both legislative bodies have now visited the prison and learned about the positive impacts its re-opening will make in our region.
Have a wonderful Thanksgiving,