Goff Public to assist county with Appleton prison lobbying again

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Swift County’s Board of Commissioners unanimously approved a memorandum of understanding with Goff Public to provide government and public relations services in 2017 at their meeting Jan. 3. Retaining the company is related to 2017 economic development priorities, it said.

The St. Paul firm is helping the county with its efforts to get the Prairie Correctional Facility in Appleton housing prisoners again.

The 1,600-bed privately-owned prison has sat empty since February 2010 when owner Corrections Corporation of America (CCA) closed it. Last fall, CCA changed its name to CoreCivic. It is the country’s largest owner of private prison facilities.

It has been keeping a minimal staff on hand for basic maintenance at the facility. CoreCivic has also invested several million in upgrades to the facility over the past years ensuring that it is ready should the State of Minnesota be interested in housing prisoners in Appleton.

However, efforts in the 2016 Legislature to see the prison bought or leased by the state were stalled with Democratic Gov. Mark Dayton opposed its use. Dayton wanted to see prison sentencing reform that would reduce the need for more prison beds.

Commissioner of Corrections Tom Roy has also opposed use of the Appleton prison, favoring expansion of current state-owned facilities closer to the Twin Cities instead. Unions that don’t want to see the private prison use non-union employees have supported his opposition. Some citizen groups have also opposed leasing the Prairie Correctional Facility because they don’t want to see a private prison company enriched with taxpayer dollars.

CoreCivic offered a lease deal to the state last year that said it could use state employees to run the facility and implement its own programs for the inmates.  It has been estimated that it would cost the state between $6 and $8 million to lease the facility....

 

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