By J. PATRICK COOLICAN

Staff Writer

Gov. Mark Dayton said Wednesday he would veto any measure this year that seeks to reopen the privately owned prison in Appleton, Minn.

“It hasn’t been given any forethought,” Dayton said at a news conference.

The DFL governor said the state faces a significant problem with prison overcrowding, but that leaders must first consider less costly options before taking over and rehabbing a vacant prison.

Dayton said the state could look at expanding the prison in Lino Lakes and consider reducing prison sentences for low level drug offenders incarcerated for what was clearly personal use of narcotics.

The governor said some of the solutions might be politically unpopular in an election year, so he hopes legislators would look at significant changes next year.

The state’s prison system is so overcrowded that roughly 500 prisoners are being shipped to county jails.

“We are going to have to face up to this overcrowding,” Dayton said. But buying or leasing and then operating a new prison “is hugely expensive and I don’t support it.”

The Prairie Correctional Facility in Appleton has 1,600 beds. Corrections Corporation of America closed the facility in 2010 following declining demand for the facility by the state.

The publicly-traded company is the largest private corrections operation in the country, managing more than 65 correction and detention facilities in 19 states. The company has three registered lobbyists at the Minnesota Capitol.

A GOP-led House committee passed a measure Tuesday that would reopen the prison in Appleton.

The effort is drawing strong opposition from communities of color, who say the measure is part of a larger effort by some state leaders to lock up people of color.

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