MINNEAPOLIS - A coalition of Minnesota-based community, faith, labor and civil rights organizations is opposing the public lease of the Prairie Correctional Facility in Appleton, owned by Corrections Corporation of America, a private prison corporation.

The coalition, led by ISAIAH, a faith-based organization of 100 congregations across Minnesota, said that the company has a track record of cutting corners for the sake of profit.

The city of Appleton and Swift County are urging the state to lease the Prairie Correctional Facility to house inmates from Minnesota. Supporters of the lease proposal argue that it resolves issues raised by those who oppose private prison ownership since the state would staff and operate the facility.

Lars Negstad, with ISAIAH, said the organization opposes the lease because it would provide $6 million to possibly $8 million a year to Corrections Corporation of America, benefiting the private corporation and its overall operations.

He said the Appleton economy experienced a bubble that burst when the prison closed.

Leasing the prison risks creating a second economic bubble. It’s not a sustainable economic model for the community, Negstad said.

The group also opposes the state’s purchase of the facility. It would add to the state’s prison bed capacity and work against efforts to reduce the number of people incarcerated in the state. Minnesota is seeing its inmate population grow at a rate faster than most other states in the country, he said.

The Appleton prison was built in 1992 and it was closed in February 2010 when the last Minnesota inmates were removed.

Gary Hendrickx, a member of the Swift County Board of Commissioners and Appleton business owner, recently told the Tribune that more than 500 state inmates are being housed in county jails. Leasing the Appleton facility would allow the state to provide vocational and other programming to the inmates to reduce recidivism and improve their prospects for successful reentry to society.

Leasing the facility would give a “foothold in our criminal justice system to a company that has shown itself to be a bad actor by repeatedly failing to follow basic regulations and standards,” said Eliot Seide, executive director of the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees Council 5, which is part of the coalition opposing the lease.

The coalition also said that housing prisoners in Appleton places them far from their families and communities.

There are more than 16,000 Minnesota children with a parent in prison, according to Dr. Rebecca Shlafer, professor of pediatrics at the University of Minnesota. Recent research conducted by the Minnesota Department of Corrections shows that prison visitation reduces recidivism up to 25 percent.

The coalition to oppose Corrections Corporation of America in Minnesota includes ISAIAH, AFSCME Council 5, Jewish Community Action, NAACP Minneapolis, Neighborhoods Organizing for Change, Minnesota Public Interest Research Group, TakeAction Minnesota, and the Minnesota state chapter of Service Employees International Union.


A view from inside the Appleton prison

Community meeting to discuss prison proposal in Appleton