On Wednesday, Sen. Andrew Lang (R-Olivia) introduced a bill that would direct state officials to either purchase or lease-to-own the Prairie Correctional Facility, an unused prison located in Appleton, MN. Senate File 1322, aims at both bring jobs back to a rural community and ease the burden of prison overcrowding by making make use of the 1,600-bed facility that has sat empty since it closed in 2010.
“This legislation would bring jobs back to the Appleton area, a community which has experienced economic hardship since the prison’s closing,” said Sen. Lang. “At the same time, by 2022, there will be a projected 1,300 more inmates than capacity in the state prison system. This bill would directly address the serious problem of prison overcrowding in Minnesota.
“I am very concerned about the services that are not available to overflow-inmates when they are housed in temporary facilities instead of correctional institutions. It is important that inmates have access to education, substance abuse treatment, and mental health care prior to their return to society,” Sen. Lang continued.
Since the legislation calls for either a purchase or lease-to-own agreement between the state and the facility’s owners, it would be entirely managed and run by the Department of Corrections. This bill has the support of officials in Swift County, which lost over 350 jobs and saw its unemployment rate spike to one of the highest in the state following the prison’s closing.
The bill awaits a hearing in the Senate Judiciary and Public Safety Finance and Policy Committee. Its House companion, authored by Rep. Tim Miller (R-Prinsburg), also awaits a hearing.
“As a state, we need to be looking at all available options for easing the burden on our corrections system, as well as putting people back to work. Putting this functional facility in Appleton to use – and bringing jobs back to the community – simply makes sense,” Sen. Lang continued. “I am hopeful that we can work together to find a way to get this bill through.”
Sen. Lang is in his first term representing Minnesota Senate District 17, which includes communities in Chippewa, Kandiyohi, Renville, and Swift counties.