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Appleton will not hold Alaska inmates

APPLETON -- Hopes that inmates from Alaska could fill empty beds at the Prairie Correctional Facility were dashed on Monday.

The Alaska Department of Corrections did not select the facility to hold its prisoners being housed outside of the state, according to information from Prairie Correctional Facility.

"The Prairie Correctional Facility management and staff are obviously disappointed,'' a news release from Prairie Correctional Facility on Monday stated.

Published news accounts indicate that the Alaska Department of Corrections is entering into a contract with Cornell Corporation Inc. to house up to 1,000 inmates at its new facility in Hudson, Colo.

The Alaska Department of Corrections is not renewing a contract it had with Corrections Corporation of America, which owns the Appleton facility. Corrections Corporation of America has been housing Alaska inmates in its Arizona facilities under the contract.

Officials in Appleton were hoping that negotiations between the corporation and the Alaska Department of Corrections would bring inmates to fill empty beds.

The 1,600-bed facility has seen its inmate numbers decline as the state of Minnesota begins transferring its inmates to state-run facilities. The Appleton prison also holds inmates from the state of Washington.

To avoid layoffs, the Appleton facility adopted a new work schedule this summer. Hourly employees work 72 hours in every two-week pay period instead of the customary 80 hours. Salaried employees have also reduced their work schedules by taking one-week furloughs.

The facility is one of the largest employers in Swift County, with 249 employees at the time the reduced hours were implemented in June to avoid layoffs. It has also worked to avoid job losses through attrition.

The company plans to continue to do what it can to avoid job losses and maintain operations at Prairie Correctional Facility.

"Our goal is to maintain operations at (Prairie Correctional Facility), which is why we continue to market the facility to keep it financially viable,'' stated the company. "With that said, we cannot speculate today on what impact the continued reduction in populations will have."

Tom Cherveny

Tom Cherveny is a regional and outdoor reporter with the West Central Tribune in Willmar, MN.

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