County looks at tour of PCF as governor says ‘No private prisons’

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Swift County is organizing a tour of the Prairie Correctional Facility for Wednesday, April 24, that would include state legislators, the commissioner of the state Department of Corrections, area county commissioners as well as the prison’s owners, CoreCivic.

It would be intended to show the state that the 1,640-bed Prairie Correctional Facility (PCF) in Appleton that once employed 350 people from 24 surrounding counties should be used by the state to meet future prison needs. When it was at full occupancy, the prison generated an estimated $15.2 million annually in economic vitality for the region.

Though it has sat empty for nine years, the prison is ready to house prisoners. CoreCivic has kept a minimal maintenance staff in place and invested hundreds of thousands of dollars in its upkeep.

However, since it closed in February 2010 all efforts by local county commissioners, city representatives, and legislators to see the prison reopened have been frustrated by those adamantly opposed to seeing prisoners placed in a privately-owned facility.

The meeting was proposed at the county board’s March 18 meeting. However, it may get little state attention.

The hopes that new Gov. Tim Walz would help rural western Minnesota out by supporting the reopening of the prison were dashed in late March. Speaking to hundreds of members of the American Federation of State, County, and Municipal Employees (AFSCME) union, the Democratic governor said: “As long as I have the privilege of occupying this office, there will never be a private prison in Minnesota!”

Further, Walz apparently is not open to leasing or buying the prison as he seeks to reduce the state’s prison population....


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