I was interested to read the Star Tribune’s reporting on the hearing about the proposed banning of private prisons in Minnesota (“Bill gives private prisons the boot,” Feb. 27). I have been working on this issue since I was first elected in 2014. The Appleton Prairie Correctional Facility, which has stood empty since 2010, is in my district.

I want to correct a few misconceptions, because they affect the property, which is still owned and maintained by CoreCivic.

I was disappointed to see only the binary choice presented: private prison or no prison. There was no mention of the proposals we have presented for the last four years, under which the state would own and operate the facility.

Contradictory comments by state Rep. Ryan Winkler and Department of Corrections Commissioner Paul Schnell were left unquestioned in this article. On the one hand, Winkler says that criminal-justice reform will remove the need for more prisons; on the other, we are told that prison overcrowding is causing problems and requires the state to spend more money.

The contradiction is allowed to stand because the DFL Party and various special-interest groups are blinded by their opposition to private prisons. The Prairie Correctional Facility is caught in this loop of politically charged rhetoric, and Appleton and the surrounding area are paying the price.

If this bill is passed, the facility and its campus will not even be able to be maintained. This will become not just a lost opportunity for jobs in my community but an actual cost to the community. It will devastate Appleton and the region.

Leaving aside the fact of what the property is for, it is legally problematic to say to any property owner that once you own a property and have put a significant investment into it, the state can come along and ban that activity for purely political reasons.

I know it happens with increasing frequency these days, but it’s one more sign that Minnesota is a terrible place to invest and do business, because the capricious state government may simply erase your business model.

 

Tim Miller, R-Prinsburg, is a member of the Minnesota House.