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Union and Community Groups: Keep Private Prisons Out of MN

Critics say the state should not turn to the owner of an empty private prison in Swift County to reduce inmate overcrowding, because the corporation has a record full of "horror stories." Credit: Microsoft Images
Critics say the state should not turn to the owner of an empty private prison in Swift County to reduce inmate overcrowding, because the corporation has a record full of "horror stories." Credit: Microsoft Images
October 22, 2015

ST. PAUL, Minn. – Reopening a private prison in Appleton would be a terrible solution to inmate overcrowding, according to Minnesota labor and community groups.

The state's prisons are overflowing, and Swift County officials want a legislative task force to reconsider an empty private prison there.

But Jennifer Munt, public affairs director for the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees Council 5, says investigations of the owner's other sites have found terrible conditions – worms in the food, inmates left without medical care, guards committing rape and facilities so understaffed they're essentially run by prison gangs.

"The Corrections Corporation of America is a dreaded name,” she maintains. “And there's a trail of horror stories around the country showing how they cut corners to make a buck."

CCA has fought the accusations and defends corporate-run prisons as providing "long-run taxpayer savings without sacrificing the quality of service."

CCA's 1,600-bed Prairie Correctional Facility was built to house prisoners brought in from other states at a profit.

Munt says Minnesota lawmakers looked at the scheme before mothballing the unused prison five years ago.

Local officials want the jobs they'd get from inviting CCA back. But Munt says the corporation relies on underpaid, under-trained and overworked guards.

She states it would be better to hire staff such as the union members who do a good job at the state's prisons and many of its county jails.

"We need to look at ways to bring good jobs to Swift County,” she stresses. “One option would be for the state to purchase, rather than lease, that facility."

Munt says a corporation's incentives are all wrong when it tries to make a profit off a prison. She says it would be a mistake for the state to even start down that road.

"Criminal justice is a core responsibility of government,” she states. “And public workers should be protecting public safety.

“We shouldn't be turning that responsibility over to someone who makes a profit off of human incarceration."


Dan Heyman, Public News Service - MN