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Prison Union Urges MN Lawmakers to Pass on Controversial Facility

One of Minnesota's largest employee unions does not want lawmakers to reopen a for-profit prison in the state. (iStockphoto)
One of Minnesota's largest employee unions does not want lawmakers to reopen a for-profit prison in the state. (iStockphoto)
March 2, 2016

ST. PAUL, Minn. - State lawmakers today may consider reopening a controversial Minnesota for-profit prison, in a move that some critics are calling "immoral."

A state Senate committee is expected to look over a lease proposal to reopen the Prairie Correctional Facility in Appleton. Eliot Seide, executive director of AFSCME Council 5, which represents 1,900 correctional officers in state-run prisons, said Corrections Corp. of America has a history of cutting corners to make money, including understaffing its prisons.

"If there's incarceration for profit, there's then a market for incarceration," he said. "Instead of having less incarceration in America, we'll have more incarceration in our state, and in America, just to fill up the prisons - not because justice is being served."

The Prairie Correctional Facility has sat vacant since 2010. Supporters of reopening it say it could bring jobs to the area, while helping house the state's rising prison population.

Siede said he sympathizes with the employment needs in Appleton, but argued that there are better ways to create jobs than at a for-profit prison.

"If they want to think of repurposing the facility for some good economic goal in the area that will help agriculture, help them market products better - those are all positive things that produce real jobs," he said. "But incarceration for profit is not going to give them the kind of economy that they're looking for."

Meanwhile, Gov. Mark Dayton said he will not include funding for reopening the prison in his budget proposal. Instead, the governor is asking lawmakers to consider new ways to reduce the state's prison population.

Brandon Campbell, Public News Service - MN