County votes 4-1 to hire PR firm for prison effort

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Swift County’s Board of Commissioners voted 4 to 1 to hire Goff Public, a Twin Cities public relations and lobbying company, to help it persuade state legislators to house prisoners at the Prairie Correctional Facility in Appleton.
Only Commissioner Eric Rudningen, District 5-Kerkhoven, voted against allocating $10,000 from the County Board Discretionary Funds to retain Goff Public. Commissioners Gary Hendrickx, District 1-Appleton; Ed Pederson, District 2-north Benson; Pete Peterson, District 3-south Benson; and Joe Fox, District 4-Hegbert Township voted in favor of the expenditure.
Currently, the Minnesota Department of Corrections (DOC) has about 550 state prisoners in county jails throughout the state, Pogge-Weaver told the board at its meeting Aug. 4. “The DOC doesn’t believe that is an effective way to deal with their inmate population.” The problem is only going to get worse. The DOC estimates that by 2018 there could be 900 to 1,000 inmates in facilities outside their system, he added.
To address the problem of an expanding prison population, the DOC will ask the Minnesota Legislature to approve $85 to $100 million in bonding in 2016 to expand its facility at Rush City by 500 beds, Pogge-Weaver said.
The county has further heard that the DOC will request further bonding in 2018 or 2020 for a second 500-bed expansion, he said.
With the Prairie Correctional Facility in Appleton vacant, our region has a compelling story for use of this existing facility versus constructing of new prison space, Pogge-Weaver told commissioners.

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