Religious Leaders Don’t Want A For-Profit Prison In Minnesota

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Rev. Grant Stevenson

Bill Sorem

Rev. Grant Stevenson

Religious leaders are wary that Minnesota is going to start paying corporations again to imprison people — a disproportionate number of them minorities. Doing so, says Rev. Grant Stevensen of ISAIAH is comparable to “government sponsored human trafficking.”

The group held a prayer vigil before the first meeting of Minnesota’s Prison Population Task Force which is discussing solutions to Minnesota’s prison overpopulation problem. Minnesota is using county jails to house more than 500 inmates because the state prisons are full. One possible solution ISAIAH is against is re-opening a long-shuttered prison in Appleton, Minnesota owned by the for-profit Corrections Corporation of America (CCA).

CCA “has a horrible track record of abuse and neglect of prisoners and so we’re especially opposed to any reopening of that facility, says Lars Negstad, Strategic Campaigns Coordinator for ISAIAH.

A Grassroots Leadership report on CCA’s 30 years of operation details the company’s problems, including sexual abuse of prisoners, and incompetent guards who are paid very little.

“We think we should start scaling back the number of prisons,” says Stevensen. “One of the things that we know is that if you build it they will come. So if we build prisons, especially for-profit prisons, they will be filled up because someone needs to fill those beds in order to make a profit.”

Related story: How to Fix Minnesota’s Over-Capacity Prison System? Full video of Prison Population Task Force Meeting

The Prison Population Task Force didn’t make any specific recommendations. Those will come at future meetings. But it did discuss both expanding prison capacity and re-examining sentencing guidelines that have fueled Minnesota’s prison population boom. Sen. Scott Newman (R-Hutchinson) said he doesn’t want to outsource prison work to a private corporation. However he suggested a cost analysis to compare costs of leasing the CCA owned prison versus expanding current facilities.

Bill Sorem

Bill Sorem is a longtime advertising professional who started with Campbell Mithun and ended up with his own agency. After a tour as a sailing fleet manager in the Virgin Islands he turned to database programming as an independent consultant. He has written sailing guides for the British Virgin Islands and Belize, and written for a number of blogs. In 2010, he volunteered as a citizen journalist with The UpTake and has stayed on as a video reporter.

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