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Kubly to offer bill to refurbish Moose Lake prison; displaced inmates may be held in Appleton

APPLETON -- Sen. Gary Kubly will be introducing a bill to expand the sex offender facility at Moose Lake by refurbishing the attached, but separate, Moose Lake Correctional Facility which now holds 1,028 inmates.

Kubly, DFL-Granite Falls, said his proposal could save the state money while bringing jobs back to western Minnesota.

He's hoping that the recently closed Prairie Correctional Facility in Appleton could hold the inmates displaced by the refurbishing work at Moose Lake.

Kubly said it would probably take 18 months or longer to refurbish the Moose Lake Correctional Facility. As many as 500 or more inmates would need to be housed elsewhere during the period. Officials with the Corrections Corporation of America indicated that they would reopen the Appleton facility if there were 500 or more Minnesota inmates available, according to Kubly.

It would cost in the range of $25 million to refurbish the Moose Lake Correctional Facility, according to Kubly. That compares to the estimated $89 million that Gov. Tim Pawlenty is asking to expand the facility for sex offenders at Moose Lake, Kubly said.

He expects to have a draft of the bill ready by the end of this week.

Kubly has discussed the idea with the chairs of both the corrections and judiciary committees, and has verbally been assured his bill would get a hearing. He's also discussed the idea with other legislators, including Sen. Keith Langseth, DFL-Glyndon, chairman of the capital investments committee.

The bill is sure to face resistance, but Kubly said he believes that it stands a chance if it can elicit support from constituents back home. He said a number of rural DFL legislators have already indicated their support, and he is working to gather support from other legislators.

"I'm somewhat hopeful of taking it another step,'' said Kubly.

Kubly and Rep. Andrew Falk, DFL-Murdock, recently met with representatives of Corrections Corporation of America, which owns the Prairie Correctional Facility in Appleton. They learned that the company is currently in the process of making improvements to the facility so that it could handle level four offenders.

The Minnesota correctional system has a five-level classification structure ranging from level 1, which is minimum custody, to level 5, which is maximum custody.

The Appleton facility is currently licensed as a medium-security facility for level three offenders. Other states have urged the company to make the improvements to hold a mix of level three and four offenders, said Kubly. The improvements could improve its marketability, he noted.

The prison was closed at the start of February after the last of its inmates had been transferred to Minnesota facilities.

Tom Cherveny

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

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