ST. PAUL – Legislation being championed by State Representative Tim Miller (R-Prinsburg) that would re-open the Prairie Correctional Facility in Appleton has cleared its first committee hurdle, as it was approved by the Minnesota House Public Safety and Crime Prevention Policy and Finance Committee on March 22.
"Roughly 50 residents, local leaders, and community officials traveled from Swift County to St. Paul to testify or lend their support," Miller said. "I was so pleased to have them here because unlike some lawmakers who are unnecessarily turning this into a political football, our residents recognize that re-opening the prison will revitalize the local economy."
Specifically, Miller's bill would allow criminals to be housed in non-publicly owned facilities. It also would require the State of Minnesota to enter into a contract to lease the Prairie Correctional Facility in order to address prison bed capacity shortfalls throughout the state.
Miller said re-opening the Appleton facility is the most common sense, cost-effective solution that would solve Minnesota's overcrowded prison woes. The Prairie Correctional Facility is a state of the art prison that can provide the services necessary for state prisoners - including education and mental health. Opening the prison would provide nearly 300 jobs to Swift County, which has one of the higher unemployment rates in the state.
"I'm pleased the public safety committee recognized how important this plan is to the people in Appleton and Swift County as well our state," Miller said. "I'm confident that if this bill ends up on the House floor, the Minnesota House will approve it."
Following the hearing, Governor Dayton said he'd veto a bill that would re-open the Appleton facility. Miller said it's time for Governor Dayton and his friends to end the political games, to stop their opposition to this common sense proposal, and to help put hundreds of west-central Minnesotans back to work while solving our overcrowded prison problem.
"The Governor's Office is not leading on this issue, especially considering a commissioner has said that we have an overcrowded prison crisis," Miller said. "Months ago he proposed spending $140 million for new prison beds and that proposal was taken off the table after the Appleton prison was found to be a viable option. It's time for Governor Dayton to finally address this crisis by supporting the re-opening of the Prairie Correctional Facility and providing hundreds of good-paying union jobs to unemployed Swift County residents."
Miller's bill now heads to the Ways and Means Committee for further debate.