Since I was first elected in 2014, I have been working to get the Prairie Correctional Facility back into operation. It has been my number one priority. Today, it still sits empty, not providing badly needed jobs to the Appleton and Swift County region, and not housing inmates from our overcrowded state correctional facilities.
Special interest groups have said that private prisons have a bad reputation, that they lack accountability on how prisoners are treated, and it is the state’s direct responsibility to oversee offenders’ sentences in our correctional system. They also say we do not need more prison space, but instead, reform the system and reduce the number of inmates in our system.
I disagree with the private prison argument. Judicial Reform is another topic that deserves separate consideration. However, I am interested in getting the Prairie Correctional Facility back to work as a usable facility and to be part of the solution.
The Minnesota Department of Corrections by their own estimation will be short of prison space by 1300 beds in 2023. This shortage exists despite sentencing reform that was passed and signed into law in 2016 which I supported. Simply put, more space is needed.
I have provided two options. The State can choose to purchase Prairie Correctional Facilities outright, or they can lease to own over an agreed upon period of time. Both options accommodate the interests of the State and our budget. Either one is acceptable to Core Civic.
Every session I have been in office I have presented a bonding bill to purchase the facility if that is the State’s choice. Every year I have also presented a bill that would allow the State to lease a private prison. Both bills accommodate the interests of the State, its citizens, the Department of Corrections, and the union members that work in our system. This last week I have submitted my bills again for consideration.
The Department of Corrections under new leadership will have to address their overcrowding problem. There have been multiple assaults on corrections officers this last year with one being fatal. This is not acceptable. We need to protect our citizens and keep our guards in a safe working environment.
As Governor Walz addresses this need, I will remain vigilant in keeping the Appleton Option his number one solution. However, I cannot get this job done alone. I need you to join me. I will keep you informed of the Governor’s and legislature’s actions on this issue. I need you to call, email, and write your elected officials to let them know that the Appleton Option is good for the State of Minnesota.