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Isanti County Jail
August 16, 2013 hometownsource.com

A contracted nurse for the Isanti County jail has been charged with using inmates’ names to illegally obtain prescriptions of oxycodone for personal use. Cara Sue Lindgren, 38, of Cambridge, was charged with felony fifth degree drug possession, and felony fifth degree drug possession by fraud or deceit before Judge James Dehn Aug. 9 in Isanti County District Court. Dehn set bond at $10,000 without conditions or $5,000 with conditions and her next court appearance for Sept. 4. Lindgren was an employee of Advanced Correctional Healthcare/Diamond Pharmacy Services, who is the contracted medical provider for the Isanti County jail. Oxycodone is a Level II controlled substance often used to treat moderate to severe pain. Isanti County Sheriff Bill Guenther indicated the investigation is still active. See more in Editor Rachel Kytonen’s Isanti County News story.


Minnesota Department of Corrections

Corizon
Apr 5, 2017 wctrib.com
House approves Appleton prison bill
ST. PAUL — The Minnesota House of Representatives has approved a bill aimed at reopening the Prairie Correctional Facility in Appleton, Rep. Tim Miller, R-Prinsburg, announced Tuesday in a news release. Its approval in the House assures that the measure will be considered as House and Senate conference committees consider legislation. Sen. Andrew Lang, R-Olivia, has authored a companion bill in the Senate. The legislation calls on the Department of Corrections to purchase and operate or enter into a lease agreement to own and operate the 1,650-bed prison in Appleton. It has not held inmates since February 2010. Its owner, CoreCivic, formerly Corrections Corporation of America, maintains it as licensed and ready for occupancy. Miller said his legislation is designed to take advantage of the state-of-the art facility in Appleton to address overcrowding in state prisons. It is also an economic development issue for Appleton. The reopened prison would provide roughly 300 good-paying union jobs to Swift County residents, Miller said in the news release.

October 17, 2013 wday.com

ST. PAUL, Minn. (AP) — The Minnesota Department of Corrections has hired a new firm to manage medical care for the state's 9,000 prison inmates. The department hired St. Louis-based Centurion Managed Care, a Fortune 500 health care company that manages medical care under public contracts in several states. In a statement, the department said that Centurion Managed Care is expected to "deliver significant savings to taxpayers while improving the quality of care for offenders incarcerated in the state's prison system." The department severed ties with a national company that was the target of lawsuits and staff complaints over substandard care. A 2012 Star Tribune investigation found that at least nine Minnesota inmates had died since 2000 due to denial or delay of care while Corizon Health was the state's prison medical contractor. More than 20 had suffered serious or critical injuries during that period, the newspaper's investigation found. Since then, the department has paid more than $1.8 million in wrongful death and negligence cases, including a $400,000 settlement in May to the family of a Rush City inmate who died in 2010 after being left alone in his cell while suffering a nightlong series of seizures. The department's announcement did not address past cases. But Corrections Commissioner Tom Roy released a statement praising Corizon for introducing managed-care efficiencies to Minnesota's prisons and providing "excellent service to the state." The contract with Centurion takes effect Jan. 1 and will cost the state $67.5 million through 2016, the Star Tribune (http://bit.ly/17wef0H ) reported. It replaces a contract with Corizon, which has provided the Minnesota Department of Corrections with physicians, pharmaceutical services and medical specialists for the past 15 years.


05/22/2013 twincities.com
The Minnesota Department of Corrections has agreed to a $400,000 settlement in a federal lawsuit over the death of a 27-year-old St. Paul man. Xavius Scullark-Johnson suffered at least seven seizures in his prison cell through the night of June 28, 2010, and into the next morning at the Rush City prison. Nurses and correctional officers didn't provide medical care for eight hours, and a nurse turned away an ambulance, the lawsuit said. Scullark-Johnson died June 30, 2010. "Defendants' deliberate indifference to Mr. Scullark-Johnson's serious medical needs caused his death," said the lawsuit, which named Corrections Department officers and nurses, along with Corizon Inc., a private company based in Tennessee that the state contracts with for medical services, and one of the firm's doctors. The Corizon part of the lawsuit is ongoing. It is the largest settlement the Corrections Department has paid in a medical-negligence lawsuit in the past eight years, according to the department. The state defendants deny liability, the settlement agreement said. "We take our charge to incarcerate offenders in a safe and secure manner very seriously, so the premature loss of life of offenders in our care and control always causes us great concern," Corrections Commissioner Tom Roy said in a statement. Olivia Scullark, Scullark-Johnson's mother, filed the lawsuit in June. Her son, who was in prison for a probation violation, had a history of seizure disorders, which the department and its health care providers "were well aware of," the lawsuit said. After the June 2010 seizures, he was declared brain dead and removed from life support. "The conduct here was really horrendous, the way that someone who had serious medical needs was just ignored," said Jordan Kushner, Scullark's attorney. A nurse was suspended for five days without pay for failing to follow emergency medical procedures, according to John Schadl, a Corrections Department spokesman. The department reviews its performance, policies and procedures after every critical incident. As a result of the Scullark-Johnson case, the department has started working with the Epilepsy Foundation of Minnesota to increase training for correctional officers on how to recognize and respond to seizures, Schadl said. The department also has revised its procedures to ensure information is better communicated from one shift to the next, he said. Mara H. Gottfried can be reached at 651-228-5262. Follow her at twitter.com/MaraGottfried or twitter.com/ppUsualSuspects.

December 18, 2012 by PAUL McENROE , Star Tribune
Corizon and the state Corrections Department are named in the suit arising from an inmate's death after multiple seizures in 2010. The private contractor that provides medical care in Minnesota prisons has been sued for wrongful death in the case of an inmate who died from seizure complications in 2010 at the prison in Rush City. The suit, filed in federal court in Minneapolis, alleges that a doctor employed by Corizon Inc. initially failed to order an ambulance when Xavius Scullark-Johnson went into seizures late one night, and that the inmate received negligent care again after an ambulance crew was turned away by a prison nurse the next morning. Tennessee-based Corizon, which will receive $28 million this year to care for the state's 9,200 inmates, joins the Minnesota Department of Corrections as a second defendant in a case that throws a spotlight on the quality of medical care received by inmates. "Defendants left Mr. Scullark-Johnson lying in his cell by himself after he had suffered numerous seizures, was disoriented, unable to control his bodily functions and had injured himself from seizures," according to the suit, which was filed by Minneapolis attorney Jordan Kushner, who represents Scullark-Johnson's family. A Corizon spokesperson declined to comment, citing the pending litigation. Corrections officials have said that inmates in Minnesota receive the "community standard'' of medical care required by law -- similar to the level of care received by most Minnesotans. In addition to the allegations against the Corizon physician, the suit alleges that at least three Corrections Department nurses and four prison officers failed to provide adequate care while Scullark-Johnson suffered as many as six seizures in a four- to five-hour period. Previously undisclosed records show that the overnight corrections officers responsible for Scullark-Johnson's care failed to document his quickly deteriorating condition, even though they went so far as to remove his cellmate to segregation after he repeatedly complained that an ambulance should be ordered. The lawsuit reopens questions raised last month in a Star Tribune investigation which found that since 2000, at least nine state prisoners - including Scullark-Johnson - have died after medical care was denied or delayed and another 21 have suffered serious or critical injury. Staffing arrangements set out in the state's contract with Corizon played a role in many of those death and injury cases, the newspaper found. Under that contract, Corizon doctors and physicians' assistants exit prison grounds each weekday by 4 p.m., leaving just one on-call doctor to assess the condition of prisoners statewide by telephone. In addition, the state-employed nurses end their shifts by 11 p.m., leaving minimally trained corrections guards as the front-line medical responders. That is exactly the kind of situation that played out when Scullark-Johnson, 27, of St. Paul, struggled for his life on a June night two years ago. It is not disputed that Dr. Sharyn Barney initially did not call for an ambulance as Skullark-Johnson suffered a series of seizures the night she was assigned to be the on-call physician. In a statement given to Corrections investigators after the incident, Barney, who regularly works out of the prison in Moose Lake, defended her actions and said she was not provided with enough information from prison officers about Scullark-Johnson's condition. But a Corrections lieutenant told investigators he informed Barney that officers knew Scullark-Johnson had at least three seizures and that the cellmate reported that Scullark-Johnson had suffered at least six to seven seizures. Barney told him to simply let Scullark-Johnson sleep rather than call for an ambulance, according to court records. Only after an officer complained about an hour later that Scullark-Johnson was not improving did Barney agree that an ambulance should be called, according to documents previously obtained by the newspaper. When the ambulance arrived, however, a nurse turned it away, citing "protocols.'' When the nurse returned an hour later and found Scullark-Johnson face down in his cell and unresponsive, the ambulance crew returned and took him to Fairview Lakes Hospital in nearby Wyoming. He was declared brain dead that night and taken off life support the following day. A trial date for the case has not been set.

November 11, 2012  PAUL McENROE , Star Tribune
Lapses in prison medical care have produced tragic results for inmates. Erick Thomas lay in his bunk moaning in pain, too weak to make the night's final count at Stillwater prison. Alerted by guards, two nurses gave him a 10-minute exam and concluded he was merely suffering from a muscle spasm near his neck. One wrote "Faker!" in her shift report before going home for the night. By midnight, Thomas was writhing on the floor of his cell. The next morning, he was found paralyzed, drenched in urine and near death. After an ambulance rushed him to Regions Hospital in St. Paul, doctors discovered a blood clot pressing on nerves atop his spine. He underwent emergency surgery and a week later, at age 30, had to learn to walk all over again. "I felt like they were trying to kill me," Thomas said. "No human being should be treated like that." Thomas' ordeal last March is just one in a series of cases, outlined in court records and internal documents, in which Minnesota prison inmates in distress have been denied medical care -- with dangerous and sometimes deadly results. Since 2000, at least nine prisoners have died after medical care was denied or delayed by corrections staff, a Star Tribune investigation has found, and another 21 have suffered serious or critical injury. The state Department of Corrections and its staff have been held liable for nearly $1.8 million in wrongful death and negligence cases, court papers show. In addition, at least six nurses have been disciplined for countermanding doctors' orders, giving false statements or denying emergency care, and one surrendered her license to the state Board of Nursing after its investigators found she denied care to inmates in eight separate cases. Just last month, a jury in Washington County awarded an inmate more than $1 million after finding negligence on the part of Dr. Stephen Craane, a contract physician at the prison in Oak Park Heights. The inmate, Stanley Riley, was suffering from what turned out to be cancer and had written a series of pleading notes to prison officials. One read: "I assure you that I am not a malingerer. I only want to be healthy again." Jane Eskelson, who recently retired after more than 20 years as a corrections officer and witnessed the death of one inmate, said the medical staff was often overworked. "Stuff got dropped, they were apathetic and angry," Eskelson said. "You're just plain worn out at the end." Corrections Commissioner Tom Roy and his two top medical administrators declined to be interviewed for this story. The agency issued a statement saying prisoners receive medical services that meet the "community standard" of care required by law, and that its managed-care philosophy is a responsible approach widely used in American medicine. "Quality assurance issues are endemic to the health care industry as a whole," the statement said. "Our health care providers, like others, are constantly working to improve the quality of care we provide that is responsible to taxpayers." 'Vulnerable adults' Offenders in state prisons and county jails are the only Americans with a constitutional right to health care -- the result of a 1976 U.S. Supreme Court ruling which found them to be "vulnerable" adults. Because they are completely dependent on their guardians, the court said they are entitled to medical care comparable to that received by the general public in their community. To provide that care in Minnesota prisons, while controlling the system's ever-rising medical costs, the state Department of Corrections has contracted since 1998 with Corizon Inc., a private, for-profit corporation based in Tennessee. The firm, formerly known as Correctional Medical Services, is the nation's biggest prison health care company, holding contracts with 31 state and local prison systems. Although state officials are ultimately responsible for inmate care, Corizon's contract grants it broad authority over day-to-day prison medical operations. Corizon hires prison doctors; establishes the list of approved prescription drugs; determines doctors' daily caseloads, and oversees the use of such outside services as ambulances and medical specialists. Prison nurses are state employees, but they work in a command structure with Corizon doctors and physician assistants at the top. Working for a fixed annual fee -- $28 million last year -- Corizon has an incentive to maintain strict cost control. A review of Corizon's state contract shows how lean the operation can be. Doctors employed by Corizon leave their prison clinics after 4 p.m. and do not work weekends. Prison nurses generally finish their last shifts by 11 p.m. Except for the prisons at Oak Park Heights and Faribault, which hold inmates with complicated medical conditions, Minnesota prisons have no overnight medical staff, and clinics are closed.

December 14, 2011 AP
A former inmate in St. Cloud who says he suffered eye and skin damage after an adverse drug reaction is suing the state prison system's medical provider. Forty-nine-year-old Teddy Korf of Pine City has filed a federal lawsuit against Corizon Inc., formerly known as Correctional Medical Services. He claims that medical officials prescribed him a drug in 2007 used to treat bipolar disorder and epilepsy, even though he had no history of either. He says the drug had serious side effects that caused his skin to blister and slough off, and his corneas to deteriorate. He claims that medical officials prescribed him a drug in 2007 used to treat bipolar disorder and epilepsy, even though he had no history of either. Corizon attorney Charles Gross declined to comment to the Minneapolis Star Tribune. Korf already reached a $275,000 settlement with the state Department of Corrections. His lawsuit asks for damages in excess of $75,000.

Prairie Correctional Facility
Appleton, Minnesota
CCA
Private prison company’s growth went hand-in-hand with political influence: Jon Collins September 26, 2011 Minnesota Independent

Apr 15, 2017 swiftcountymonitor.com
House approves bill for lease or purchase of Appleton prison
Before going on its Easter break, the Minnesota House of Representatives approved a bill that calls for the state to either buy or lease the 1,600-bed Prairie Correctional Facility in Appleton. However, passage of the bill in the Republican-controlled House doesn’t mean it will eventually be approved. It now goes to a conference committee between members of the House and state Senate – which is also controlled by Republicans.
However, even if the bill comes out of the Legislature it still has to get signed by Democratic Gov. Mark Dayton. So far, Dayton has not favored the state’s purchase or lease of the privately-owned prison. CoreCivic, formerly known as Corrections Corporation of America, is the owner of the prison. It has sat empty since February 2010. CoreCivic does keep a maintenance staff at the prison to keep it ready to use and has made significant investments in improvements over the past seven years. “It’s been made very clear to us that the department of corrections has a prison bed problem and it doesn’t have enough beds in their system,” state District 17A Rep. Tim Miller, R-Prinsburg, said. “We have a state-of-the-art facility in Appleton that can service the needs of the State of Minnesota, and utilizing this asset is just good common sense.” Miller is a chief author of the bill. Swift County is in his House district. Miller’s bill is included as part of a comprehensive public safety proposal that would allow criminals to be housed in non-publicly owned facilities. It also would require the State of Minnesota to enter into a contract to operate and purchase or lease to own the Prairie Correctional Facility in order to address prison bed capacity shortfalls throughout the state. Use of the Appleton prison would allow the state to remove nearly 500 state prisoners from county jails where they have been housed because Minnesota’s DOC prison beds are full. Those housed in county jails don’t have access to state education programs aimed at teaching inmates skills that will help them avoid breaking the law again when they are out and ending up back in prison. Dayton has opposed use of the Appleton prison, favoring instead sentencing reform to reduce the number of inmates sitting in jail as well as reducing the number headed to prison in the future…

Dec 31, 2016 swiftcountymonitor.com
Promotion of Appleton prison to continue in 2017
Republican Rep. Tony Cornish, in black sweatshirt, chairs the Minnesota House Public Safety and Crime Prevention Policy and Finance Committee. He will play a key role in the discussions about the state’s possible use of the Appleton prison. Swift County is already gearing up to make another effort to get the State of Minnesota to lease or buy the Prairie Correctional Facility in Appleton. At the county board’s meeting Dec. 19, Commissioner Gary Hendrickx, District 1-Appleton, reported that he and Commission Chair Pete Peterson, District 3-south Benson, had attended a meeting of representatives of lobbying firm Goff Public and CoreCivic, the owner of the prison. CoreCivic is the new name of Corrections Corporation of America, the country’s largest owner of private prison facilities. It changed its name this past fall. “Rebranding as CoreCivic is the culmination of a multi-year strategy to transform our business from largely corrections and detention services to a wider range of government solutions,  Damon T. Hininger, the company’s president and chief executive officer said in a news release. “The CoreCivic name speaks to our ability to solve the tough challenges facing government at all levels and to the deep sense of service that we feel every day to help people.” Also at the meeting was District 17A state Rep. Tim Miller, R-Prinsburg, and state Senator-elect Andrew Lang, R-Olivia. The meeting was called to formulate a strategy for lobbying the Legislature during the 2017 session. The prison has sat empty since February 2010 when it was shut down. A minimum staff has been kept at the facility to maintain it over the past nearly seven years. The company has also invested hundreds of thousands in improvements to the 1,600-bed facility. It has been estimated that reopening the prison would create 350 jobs for western Minnesota, have a $13 to $15 million payroll, and provide a significant boost to the local economies of the many small towns from which the employees come. Hendrickx told fellow commissioners that it seems that the appetite to purchase isn’t as strong as it was last year; there is more of an appetite to lease, he said. Whose appetite is favoring leasing over buying? Commissioner Ed Pederson, District 2-north Benson, asked Hendrickx. Republican Tony Cornish, chair of the state House’s Public Safety and Crime Prevention Policy and Finance Committee, seems to have more of an appetite for a lease, Hendrickx said. The lease doesn’t require the big upfront dollar amount a purchase would, he said. Minnesota Democrat Gov. Mark Dayton, who has not looked at any use of the Appleton prison favorably, still has indicated he leans toward a purchase if it is done. For the Appleton area, whether it is a lease or a purchase, it is the jobs that are important, Hendrickx said. But it is also important that the agreement that is reached whether a purchase or a lease shows a commitment to use the facility for the long term to ensure job stability, Hendrickx said. When there is uncertainty about future employment people can’t find stability in their lives and businesses can’t find stability in their decisions, he said. When individuals and business don’t know where things are going, they are not going to invest as much, he said.

Jul 9, 2016 wctrib.com
'Appleton option' to reopen western Minn. private prison stays the course
APPLETON—Legislation to reopen the Prairie Correctional Facility in Appleton was met by angry protesters at its most important hearing, amendments from the floor to kill it, and public opposition from the state's employees union. And this was in the House, where the legislation authored by Rep. Tim Miller, R-Prinsburg, advanced to a conference committee but died there. In the Senate, the chair of the Judiciary Committee never allowed the companion bill by Sen. Lyle Koenen, DFL-Clara City, to be heard. Miller and representatives of the city of Appleton and Swift County are not discouraged. They intend to return to the Legislature with continued hopes of seeing the 1,600-bed facility reopened. "I will not stop until we get the Appleton prison opened,'' Miller told a dozen Appleton area residents at a town hall meeting Tuesday in the community. The argument for reopening the prison will remain the same. "We have an asset that is sitting there, a great asset and the state has a need. So let's address that need and use that asset,'' Miller said. He said much of the opposition focused on the vacant facility's ownership by Corrections Corporation of America and dislike of a private prison. Miller said the opposition continued to ignore the fact that the corporation had offered the state an option to purchase or lease to own, and that the state would have operated the prison with union employees. Corrections Corporation of America had offered to lease the facility for $6 million to $8 million a year, and to sell it for $99 million. The lease payments could be used toward the purchase price, according to Miller. Appleton attorney Brian Wojtalewicz questioned the $99 million purchase price when Corrections Corporation of America is paying property taxes based on a $15 million value. Miller said that's the offer the corporation put on the table. Negotiations between the state and the company are not in the Legislature's hands. While there was opposition to the prison legislation, Miller said there was also some progress. There was sentiment in the Senate in favor of purchasing the facility. And, the governor's office had met with lobbyists for Corrections Corporation of America to discuss the offer, he said. Most important, Miller said he heard from many who agree that the facility is the way to address the state's needs. Population growth indicates that the state's prison population will continue to increase despite sentencing reforms. Miller said the most recent projection is that by 2022, there will be 1,300 inmates above the capacity of state prisons. "It pushes a lot of people out of the prisons and into the county jails,'' he said. "We didn't get rid of the problem, we shifted the problem.'' Swift County Commissioner Gary Hendrickx and County Administrator Mike Pogge-Weaver said after the meeting that the county and city will continue to stay the course in promoting the "Appleton option'' to reopen the facility. They noted that along with a shortage of space, the state Department of Corrections calculates that it has $1 billion worth of deferred maintenance in its prison system, which includes many older facilities. Miller said he also hopes that rural members of the union representing state employees, the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees, will voice their support for making possible good-paying jobs in western Minnesota. The private prison was opened in 1992 and closed in February 2010. At its peak it employed over 300 and held over 1,600 inmates.

Apr 13, 2016 startribune.com
Outlook bleak for Minnesota private prison proposal
The prison is located just south of Appleton's commercial and residential district. The outlook is bleak for a proposal to reopen Prairie Correctional Facility, a private prison in Swift County. Over the past month, a protest temporarily shut down a legislative hearing on the bill, the state’s top prison commissioner called it “the antithesis of America” and Gov. Mark Dayton vowed to veto if it passed. Last Friday, the bill missed a critical deadline in the Senate, making even sponsor Sen. Lyle Koenen, DFL-Clara City, cautiously pessimistic it will succeed this year. “I could be wrong,” added Koenen. “Things change fast here.” When Koenen introduced the bill, which would direct the state to lease and operate the private facility, supporters marketed it as common-sense arithmetic: Minnesota’s prisons are bloated beyond capacity, leading the Department of Corrections to house hundreds of overflow inmates in county jails. At the same time, there’s a 1,600-bed facility sitting vacant in Appleton, and backers said the bill would buoy a depressed economy in the state’s Western region. But the political debate has proved much more complicated. For critics in the Legislature and a vocal coalition of religious and civil rights groups, reopening Prairie Correctional has brought home long-standing frustrations with the nation’s criminal justice system: the rise of mass incarceration, use of for-profit prisons and disparate imprisonment of people of color. These issues reach beyond the Appleton bill, and in recent months, Minnesota has become a melting pot of justice reform issues being debated across the nation, said Lauren-Brooke Eisen, senior counsel for the Brennan Center for Justice, who is writing a book on private prisons. It’s indisputable that Minnesota’s prisons are overcrowded. But the difficult conversations over where to go next — reopening the Appleton prison or, on the flip side of the debate, reforming sentencing laws and reducing the prison population — marks a significant moment for the state, said Eisen. “What’s happening in Minnesota is reflective on so many levels of the larger conversation that the country is having on criminal justice reform,” she said. Much of the criticism over the proposal has been directed toward the facility’s owner, Corrections Corporation of America (CCA). Founded in 1983, CCA is the largest private prison company in the United States, housing more than 70,000 inmates across the country, according to the company’s website. CCA purchased Prairie Correctional Facility in the mid-90s and operated it until 2010, when it closed due to lack of inmate contracts. CCA still employs a skeleton staff to keep up with maintenance, but the facility has been otherwise vacant for six years. Last year, religious group ISAIAH began protesting efforts to reopen Prairie Correctional, criticizing CCA’s record and the private-prison model for profiting off incarceration. ISAIAH is now among at least 13 organizations opposing the Appleton proposal. The opposition also includes the union representing Minnesota correctional officers, which says they don’t want CCA to get a foothold that could lead to the company running the prison under future political leadership. “Reopening Appleton benefits only two groups — CCA and politicians whose ‘tough-on-crime’ laws caused overcrowding in the first place,” said Jennifer Munt, spokeswoman for the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees Council 5. Critics like Munt point to a history of lawsuits and negative news articles alleging violence, understaffing and unsanitary conditions as evidence that Minnesota shouldn’t be doing business with the company. In an interview in Appleton last February, CCA spokesman Jonathan Burns emphasized that CCA would lease the facility to the state, and the company would act as a landlord. “Other than maintaining the facility, CCA would have no input,” said Burns. “The state would manage the facility as though it were its own, except the state wouldn’t incur the costs associated with building a new facility, the costs associated with maintenance and upkeep.” That nuance hasn’t satisfied critics. Sen. Ron Latz, DFL-St. Louis Park, has been among the proposal’s staunch opponents at the Capitol. He said there’s “no such thing as a short-term lease” for this facility, given the investment the state would have to make in staffing and  relocating prisoners. “It would be like the equivalent of a military base closing,” Latz said. “It would be impossible.” As chair of the Senate Judiciary Committee, Latz has played a key role in keeping the Appleton bill from advancing this year. Latz said he sympathizes with Appleton residents who want to see the prison reopen as a job creator, but he doesn’t believe economic needs should drive incarceration policy. “That would be immoral,” he said. “The prospect of creating incentives for putting more people in jail for the purpose of enhancing the economic well-being of a particular region is completely backward.” Instead, Latz and others, including Dayton, said Minnesota should be focusing on ways to reduce its prison population. One plan to do so is already in the works. The Minnesota Sentencing Guidelines Commission, an independent state agency that sets recommendations for judges, recently passed an overhaul to sentences for drug offenders. Legislators have proposed amendments to reforms, and some House Republicans want to block it. But if the Legislature doesn’t act, the new guidelines will go into effect in August. Koenen said he’s skeptical that these reforms alone would be enough. Over the next 10 years, the new guidelines would save 560 beds, according to commission data. But DOC projections put the state’s inmate population at 1,300 over capacity by 2022. “Even if [the reforms] take place, I’m not convinced it will solve the problem,” said Koenen. Another critical voice to the Appleton bill and expansion of the prison population has emerged from civil rights organizations. In March, Black Lives Matter and other groups packed a House hearing to protest the bill, some comparing it to slavery because black people face disproportionate incarceration rates relative to the state’s racial makeup. Two weeks ago, protesters spoke out against the Appleton plan in the streets of Minneapolis after prosecutors announced they wouldn’t charge two police officers who shot and killed Jamar Clark, an unarmed black man in north Minneapolis. Last week, black state leaders introduced a legislative agenda that included opposition to Appleton and support for reducing the population through sentencing reforms. “A lot of the laws we have now are disproportionally affecting low-income folks — black folks in particular,” said Wintana Melekin, spokeswoman for Neighborhoods Organizing for Change, one of the groups opposing the Appleton bill. “It’s really an attack on the poor, and we need to re-evaluate that.” Though the bill appears stagnant, it’s too early to write it off entirely. The Legislature can be unpredictable, and it’s still possible for the measure to be revived. It’s also likely that legislators will push the bill in future legislative sessions with some tweaks to help quell opposition. One alternative under discussion is for the state to outright purchase the facility, taking CCA out of the equation entirely. “That would have a lot more acceptance in the senate,” Koenen said. “Having said that, even if that bill were introduced right now, I’m not sure we’re there yet.”

Apr 1, 2016 swiftcountymonitor.com
Committee passes prison bill; governor promises veto
Early last Tuesday morning a bus wove its way through western Minnesota picking up supporters of the reopening of the Prairie Correctional Facility in Appleton with state prisoners. It then headed for a committee hearing at the state Capitol in St. Paul. What followed was a startling education in the highly emotional and combative politics of sentencing laws, race and prison use in Minnesota. As the bus rolled up to the Transportation Building in the state Capitol complex, it was met by a group running up to it with coffee and donuts, but also bearing banners saying, “Don’t believe the lies of CCA! You’re better than that Appleton!” CCA stands for Corrections Corporation of America, the country’s largest private owner of prison space, including Appleton’s 1,600-bed facility. “That is how our day started,” Swift County Administrator Mike Pogge-Weaver said last Friday.  From there, the attempt of the group from multiple communities and counties in west Central Minnesota to get its message heard was drowned out by the raucous, often belligerent, opposition gathered in the hearing meeting room in the State Office Building. After protesters of the prison continually shouted at the committee, making it impossible for supporters of the Appleton prison to be heard by members, Rep. Tony Cornish, Republican-Vernon Center, had the room cleared, closing the hearing for nearly an hour. When it reconvened, no more Appleton prison supporters were heard; rather the opposition sat at the table without interruption. Despite the vociferous opposition of protesters, the House Public Safety and Crime Prevention Policy and Finance Committee, which has a majority of Republicans on it, passed the bill. It now goes on to the House Ways and Means Committee. House File 3223 would make two changes to the current law. It would allow the inclusion of non-publically owned facilities among those to which the state’s commissioner of corrections can send prisoners in state custody. Further, it adds a new paragraph to the law saying, “The commissioner, in order to address bed capacity shortfalls, shall enter into a contract to lease and operate an existing prison facility with a capacity of at least 1,500 beds located in Appleton, Minnesota.” The bill is co-sponsored by more than 20 members of the Republican-controlled state House including Republican Rep. Kurt Daudt, the Speaker of the House, and Republican Rep. Tony Cornish. Cornish chairs the Public Safety and Crime Prevention Policy and Finance Committee. It is also supported by District 17A Rep. Tim Miller, of Clara City. However, it faces opposition in the Democratic-controlled state Senate and from Gov. Mark Dayton. They have been considering ways of reducing the state’s growing prison population rather than looking at ways to house even more prisoners. Minnesota’s prisons are overcrowded today with more than 500 inmates who should be in state cells instead housed in county jails. Those sitting in county jails don’t have access to state educational and mental health programs, recreation facilities, social or church groups, or the library facilities available in a state prison. Some prisoners say serving extended time in a county jail is the equivalent of “hard time” and should get them reduced sentences. Appleton’s 1,600-bed Prairie Correctional Facility has sat empty since February 2010 with owner Corrections Corporation of America (CCA) keeping a minimal staff on hand to do maintenance and keep the facility ready to open should the state call. CCA has said it would be willing to lease the prison for between $6 and $8 million a year whether the state places 500 or 1,600 prisoners in it. CCA has offered to provide maintenance for the prison. When it was at its peak occupancy back in 2007, the Appleton prison employed 350 people from 24 surrounding communities generating an estimated $15.2 million in payroll. Republican Rep. Miller, who represents the Appleton area, stressed that the prison would be leased and operated by the state. But opponents note it would still be owned by Corrections Corporation of America, which ran the facility before it closed. The panel rejected a Democrat-led attempt to ban the state from using privately owned prisons. “I recognize that there’s been some concern about the company that owns this facility, which is precisely why we have drafted the bill in this way,” said Miller, the bill’s sponsor. “The company would have no involvement in the daily operations, staffing or inmate care at the facility. It would be entirely run by the DOC, just like any other prison facility in the state.” Miller and other advocates from the Appleton region argued that re-opening the facility would create up to 350 jobs in a financially struggling community. They also say the prison would offer counseling and other programs designed to reduce recidivism that aren’t available in county jails. “We are not asking the state to incarcerate more people. We are asking you to house them in an environment that will provide the services they need,” said Vicki Oakes of the Ortonville Economic Development Authority “We have an asset and the state has a problem and we think they match up pretty well together,” Swift County Rural Development Authority Executive Director Jennifer Frost told the committee. Oakes, Frost, Miller and other people who testified during the hearing were repeatedly cut short by protesters who interrupted from the crowd, saying the re-opening of the Appleton prison would be an immoral outrage and a “form of slavery.” The 10-7 party-line vote in the House committee came over objections from protesters who argued that black residents would be inordinately housed there and urged lawmakers to instead examine how to reduce the number of Minnesota inmates. “I don’t understand why we think it’s OK to build revenue off of black and brown bodies,” said Toya Woodland, a Roseville minister who helped lead protesters’ disruptions. “You cannot put my family in jail to save 330 Caucasians in Appleton,” a black woman shouted at the hearing. “This is abuse.” The fight reflects the wide political divide - exacerbated by election-year pressures - over how to handle Minnesota’s overcrowded prisons. DFL lawmakers have pushed to expand a looming set of reductions to major drug sentences that could free up hundreds of prison beds in the next decade. But Republicans, who control the House, have vowed to block them. Dayton has suggested earmarking millions of dollars to expand existing prisons rather than re-open Appleton’s facility or build new ones. Legislators should be talking about closing prisons, not opening more, said the Rev. Brian Herron of the faith-based coalition group ISAIAH. It was people from ISAIAH who ran to meet the bus full of western Minnesota supporters of the Appleton prison. “There’s no way you’re going to open something and not find a way to fill it,” he told lawmakers. “It’s going to be filled with black and brown bodies. We already know that.” State Rep. Debra Hilstrom, DFL-Brooklyn Center, tried unsuccessfully to amend the bill with a statewide ban on private prisons. Hilstrom said the state had good reasons for ending its relationship with CCA six years ago. She said the company cherry-picked prisoners and failed to provide state-required services. “It was Gov. Pawlenty in 2010 who stopped renting beds,” Hilstrom said. “So, this isn’t a Democratic or a Republican issue. This is about doing right for the state of Minnesota.” Gov. Mark Dayton says he’d veto a bill this year to re-open a private prison in western Minnesota. The Democratic governor laid out his opposition at a news conference last Wednesday to using the Appleton facility to ease prison overcrowding. Dayton says leasing the building from the corporate owner is not an option and buying it would be too expensive. He's suggested expanding existing facilities and some sentencing changes to get a better handle on the state's growing prison population. But Dayton said buying the prison for an estimated $100 million or more may be a long-term option if needed.
Incarceration rate per 100,000 people 2014
Lowest 5 states                                Number
Maine                                               153
Rhode Island                                     178
Massachusetts                                  188
Minnesota                                         194
North Dakota                                     214
U.S. average                                     471

Top 5 states                                      Number
Louisiana                                           816
Oklahoma                                          700
Alabama                                            633
Arkansas                                           599
Mississippi                                        597

Apr 1, 2016 echopress.com
Dayton opens door to buying private prison some day
Gov. Mark Dayton continues to say he would veto a bill to open a shuttered western Minnesota private prison, but on March 23 said that under certain circumstances could consider buying the facility. “It is not going to happen this session, unless they override my veto,” Dayton told reporters. The Democratic governor said the only way he would consider using the Appleton prison “would be to buy it.” He said that he understands Correction Corporation of America would be willing to sell the 1,600-bed facility for $100 million. However, he said, the prison would need rehabilitation. “That is a hugely expensive proposition.” Dayton said the Appleton plan lacks vetting. But he did not spell out exactly what would need to happen for him to propose buying the facility. That he ever could consider using the prison came as a surprise after he and his corrections commissioner have said many times that they oppose its use. “The building of a new prison or leasing of a prison are not on the Department of Corrections plate nor is it on the governor’s plate,” Corrections Commissioner Thomas Roy told a House committee on March 22. Dayton and Roy propose adding beds to expanding prisons to accommodate more than 500 inmates who now are housed in county jails. Predictions are that prison overcrowding will continue, prompting discussion about re-opening Appleton’s Prairie Correctional Facility, which closed in 2010 after Minnesota and other states began removing prisoners. “I would veto that bill this session,” he said. “It has not been given any forethought.” Bill sponsor Tim Miller, R-Prinsburg, said he hopes the governor and Senate Democrats can better understand his plan. “It’s time for Gov. Dayton to finally address this crisis by supporting the re-opening of the Prairie Correctional Facility and providing hundreds of good-paying union jobs to unemployed Swift County residents,” Miller said. A House committee on Tuesday approved Miller’s bill, but it came after the meeting went into recess when members of the Twin Cities’ black community interrupted pro-prison testifiers, saying they preferred state money go to social services, education and other programs than to prisons. Dayton said that prison overcrowding is a serious issue. “We are going to have to face up with this overcrowding,” he said. Appleton-area prison supporters told the House committee that the prison would help an area with higher unemployment than many places in the state. Dayton said other methods are needed to help Appleton. “We will work with them on economic development,” the governor said. “I understand that jobs are very, very important there, as they are on the [Iron] Range.” Even though he said that there “is nothing in sight that provides the kind of job impact as that prison,” he cannot support them “at any price.” “My job is to look at what is best for Appleton, as well as all of Minnesota,” he said.


Mar 23, 2016 kstp.com
The Democratic governor laid out his opposition Wednesday to using the Appleton facility to ease prison overcrowding. A House panel passed a bill to reopen the building on Tuesday. Dayton says leasing the building from the corporate owner is not an option and buying it would be too expensive. He's suggested expanding existing facilities and some sentencing changes to get a better handle on the state's growing prison population. But Dayton said buying the prison for an estimated $100 million or more may be a long-term option if needed. Protesters briefly shut down Tuesday's hearing after repeatedly interrupting. Toya Woodland says the state should focus on reducing the prison population rather than adding prison beds. Woodland says she's not sure if the disruption helped their cause but says it calls attention to their concerns.

Mar 22, 2016 startribune.com
Protesters interrupt House hearing on reopening private prison
A debate over a bill that would direct the state to lease a private prison in Swift County quickly descended into chaos Tuesday morning, leading legislators to clear the room after protesters repeatedly interrupted the proceeding to voice opposition against the proposal. After the meeting reconvened and an hour of emotional testimony, the House Public Safety Committee voted 10-7 to advance the bill. It heads next to the Ways and Means Committee. The hearing signaled a contentious road ahead for the plan to reopen Prairie Correctional Facility in Appleton, Minn. Bill author Rep. Tim Miller, R-Prinsburg, said a lease would be an immediate solution to prison overcrowding, and a superior alternative to housing overflow inmates in county jails that lack proper mental health and other programming. He also said it would also help buoy the Western Minnesota’s depressed economy. Critics quickly derailed any semblance of organized debate Tuesday morning, shouting over testimony to lambaste legislators for dealing with Corrections Corporation of America — the prison’s controversial owner — and calling a plan to incarcerate more prisoners “a form of slavery.” Legislators’ attempts to quiet the crowd only fueled more outbursts, drawing applause and shouts of “Amen” and “Black Lives Matter” from other critics. When lawmakers couldn’t get the crowd under control, they cleared the room. Before the hearing, a growing coalition of religious groups and other organizations — including the union that represents correctional workers in Minnesota — came out in strong opposition to the plan, in large part due to the prison’s controversial owner, Corrections Corporation of America. These critics point to lawsuits across the state as pattern of bad practices, and say the state shouldn’t be doing business with the company. “They have an absolutely abysmal record,” said Joe Broge, a correctional officer at Stillwater prison who came to testify. “You don’t want to allow them to get their foot in the door.”

Feb 26, 2016 wctrib.com
Nearly 300 gather for meeting on reopening Prairie Correctional Facility
APPLETON — Gov. Mark Dayton holds the key to reopening the Prairie Correctional Facility in Appleton, local legislators told a crowd of nearly 300 at a community meeting Wednesday evening Appleton. Sen. Lyle Koenen, DFL-Clara City, and Rep. Tim Miller, R-Prinsburg, kept an optimistic tone as they discussed prospects for bringing what’s being called the “Appleton option’’ to the Legislature this session. A city of Appleton and Swift County task force is urging the state to lease the vacant, 1,600-bed prison from its owner, Corrections Corporation of America. It would help the state address overcrowding in its prisons. More than 500 state inmates are currently held at 18 different county jails due to a shortage of state beds, the task force says.
  A $140 million bonding request by the Minnesota Department of Corrections to expand the Rush City correctional facility by 500 beds to address this issue is what prompted Appleton and Swift County to take on this campaign to reopen the Prairie Correctional Facility. “This has bipartisan support,’’ Rep. Miller told the Appleton audience. He said there is “incredible support’’ in the House for reopening the facility. He said he is confident that Koenen will be able to pass legislation in the Senate too. Koenen said there is interest in the Senate for reopening the prison, but also cautioned that “not everyone is on board” with the idea. He said a state lease of the privately owned facility — in which it would be staffed by state employees who are union members — eliminates one of the main concerns he hears from colleagues. He said a number of senators remain concerned that we “lock up too many people,’’ and they fear that adding prison bed capacity by leasing the Appleton facility will exacerbate that problem. Koenen said he believes that a growing state population will keep inmate levels trending upward, even if sentencing reforms are approved. Leasing the Appleton facility would also provide the state with flexibility to address inmate numbers that are likely to ebb and flow over time, he added. Miller said his confidence in legislative support comes after witnessing the reactions of legislators who have toured the facility. It has been kept ready to reopen since the last inmates left in February 2010. One of the latest visitors was Rep. Paul Torkelson, R-Hanska, chairman of the House Capital Investment Committee. “He looked at me and said ‘this is a no brainer,’ ’’ Miller said. Regional interest in seeing the prison reopen is as easy to explain as well. It once had a staff of 350 and an annual payroll of $15 million, Swift County Commissioner Gary Hendrickx told the crowd. The prison was originally built in 1990-91 in response to the outmigration of residents occurring during the farm crisis of the late 1980s. Those concerns are no different today; the jobs no less important, he said. Hendrickx said one of the questions Gov. Dayton raised to him in a meeting a few months ago was whether the state would be able to find the workers needed to staff the facility. He said he pointed out that Corrections Corporation of America was able to staff the facility, and that there remain many people in the region and elsewhere who prefer a rural lifestyle. “We’re ready for that question, we can do it,’’ he said to applause. He and others on the task force said they would like to host the governor and Lt. Gov. Tina Smith for a tour of the prison and community. Community members mainly voiced support to reopen the facility during an open forum portion of the meeting Wednesday evening. Some urged the legislators to consider a lease-to-buy option. Others also urged the legislators to remind their colleagues that rural Minnesota’s needs need to be addressed, and that the state’s western boundary is not I-494 or Hutchinson. In response to questions about what people can do, the legislators emphasized the importance of contacting other elected officials to voice support for the Appleton option. Swift County Administrator Mike Pogge-Weaver said it’s also important to make sure the message about the benefits and importance of reopening the facility continue to be heard. “We have to keep telling our story,’’ he said.

Feb 24, 2016 wctrib.com
Coalition opposes lease of Appleton prison
MINNEAPOLIS — A coalition of Minnesota-based community, faith, labor and civil rights organizations is opposing the public lease of the Prairie Correctional Facility in Appleton, owned by Corrections Corporation of America, a private prison corporation. The coalition, led by ISAIAH, a faith-based organization of 100 congregations across Minnesota, said that the company has a track record of cutting corners for the sake of profit. The city of Appleton and Swift County are urging the state to lease the Prairie Correctional Facility to house inmates from Minnesota. Supporters of the lease proposal argue that it resolves issues raised by those who oppose private prison ownership since the state would staff and operate the facility. Lars Negstad, with ISAIAH, said the organization opposes the lease because it would provide $6 million to possibly $8 million a year to Corrections Corporation of America, benefiting the private corporation and its overall operations. He said the Appleton economy experienced a bubble that burst when the prison closed. Leasing the prison risks creating a second economic bubble. It’s not a sustainable economic model for the community, Negstad said. The group also opposes the state’s purchase of the facility. It would add to the state’s prison bed capacity and work against efforts to reduce the number of people incarcerated in the state. Minnesota is seeing its inmate population grow at a rate faster than most other states in the country, he said. The Appleton prison was built in 1992 and it was closed in February 2010 when the last Minnesota inmates were removed. Gary Hendrickx, a member of the Swift County Board of Commissioners and Appleton business owner, recently told the Tribune that more than 500 state inmates are being housed in county jails. Leasing the Appleton facility would allow the state to provide vocational and other programming to the inmates to reduce recidivism and improve their prospects for successful reentry to society. Leasing the facility would give a “foothold in our criminal justice system to a company that has shown itself to be a bad actor by repeatedly failing to follow basic regulations and standards,” said Eliot Seide, executive director of the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees Council 5, which is part of the coalition opposing the lease. The coalition also said that housing prisoners in Appleton places them far from their families and communities. There are more than 16,000 Minnesota children with a parent in prison, according to Dr. Rebecca Shlafer, professor of pediatrics at the University of Minnesota. Recent research conducted by the Minnesota Department of Corrections shows that prison visitation reduces recidivism up to 25 percent. The coalition to oppose Corrections Corporation of America in Minnesota includes ISAIAH, AFSCME Council 5, Jewish Community Action, NAACP Minneapolis, Neighborhoods Organizing for Change, Minnesota Public Interest Research Group, TakeAction Minnesota, and the Minnesota state chapter of Service Employees International Union.

Feb 21, 2016 startribune.com
Appleton's economic future hinges on fight to reopen prison
Legislators will push a controversial plan to reopen former for-profit prison.
Appleton, Minn. – Surrounded by barbed-wire and electric fences, Prairie Correctional Facility sits on the southern edge of this quiet farming community. With capacity to house 1,660 inmates — more than the entire population of Appleton — it ranks among Minnesota’s largest prisons. “It’s like a small city,” Daren Swenson, the former warden at this privately owned facility, said as he walked its gray corridors on a recent February afternoon pointing to amenities like a barber shop, classrooms and a small chapel that has hosted everything from Catholic mass to Wiccan prayer services. Yet Prairie Correctional lacks one critical element for it to truly be called a prison: inmates. It hasn’t held a prisoner since February 2010. Now, the only people to roam the concrete barracks are security and maintenance staff who, among other duties, spend each week flushing the building’s more than 800 toilets so the pipes don’t freeze. But some Minnesota politicians believe it’s time for Prairie Correctional to make a comeback. As the legislative session approaches, a group of lawmakers plans to push a bill requiring the state to lease and operate the facility, which they say would solve the state’s prison overcrowding crisis. The proposal will face hard-line opposition in a philosophical debate over what type of corrections system Minnesota wants to operate moving into the future. Over the past 25 years, the state has backed itself into a corner by creating more laws that have translated into a need for thousands more prison beds, while at the same time not building enough to keep up with demand. Legislators are now split on whether to create more space or find ways to reduce the still-rising population. Some believe for-profit prisons like Prairie Correctional should be outright banned. The prison is located just south of Appleton's commercial and residential district. But the rise and fall — and potential rise again — of Prairie Correctional is also the story of an economically fragile region that has risen and fallen with it. Here in Swift County, 150 miles from the State Capitol, conversations about prison politics come distant second to concerns over the region’s unemployment, empty classrooms and vacant houses. Residents see the prison as a permanent job creator to sustain them through lean farming years — and a lifeline to save the community from stagnation. “It needs to come back,” said Julie Steuck, co-owner of JJ’s, a local diner on Appleton’s main drag. “This town was alive back then.” An unlikely solution In the 1980s, Swift County was heading toward economic depression. The rural region historically survived on farming, but record-high interest rates and crop surpluses brought devastation to the Midwest agriculture industry, and from 1975 to 1985 the percent of income from farming in Swift County dropped from 30 percent to 7 percent. Unemployment led to out-migration, and local government officials worried for the region’s future. That’s how they came up with the idea for a prison. Appleton opened Prairie Correctional in the early 1990s, originally designed to hold 500 inmates. A few years later, Corrections Corporation of America (CCA) — now the largest for-profit prison company in the country — purchased the facility and expanded it to the mammoth it is today. At its peak, the prison employed 350 people from across western Minnesota, with a total payroll of about $13 million, according to CCA data. The economic boon went beyond job creation. The prison paid $600,000 a year in utilities and hundreds of thousands more in property taxes. It was enough to temporarily halt the population decline, and for the first time in decades the number of Swift County residents actually grew between 1990 and 2000. Guy Block was among those who moved to Swift County to work for the prison. Block grew up in Montana and applied to be a correctional officer with the intention of staying six months, until he could transfer to another CCA-owned facility opening closer to home. Then he fell in love with his job and a nurse who worked there. “There was barely a house to rent in Appleton at the time,” Block recalled. “It went from that to what you see now — you have dilapidated houses around town.” By 2009, economics once again caught up with Swift County. When the Great Recession hit, states cut prison spending, and Prairie Correctional lost its contracts. It closed in early 2010. “I didn’t see it coming,” said Jackie Sigdahl, a former human resources manager at Prairie Correctional. “You just think, ‘a prison’s not going to close.’ And I really believed that.” With no inmates, the value of the facility plummeted, and property taxes went up 30 percent for Appleton residents the next year, said city clerk and treasurer Roman Fidler. That $600,000 in utility money all but disappeared. Some employees lingered, hoping the closure would be temporary. But when bleak reality set in, another exodus began. Since the closure, CCA has continued to keep up with maintenance and state licensure, hoping to pick up new contracts. In the meantime, local government officials have exhaustively pondered other uses for the prison. Research into precedents has turned up two findings: Alcatraz — the historic prison-turned-tourist destination — and the 1980 Olympic Village in Lake Placid, N.Y., which was flipped into a federal prison in the ’90s. Silhouettes help identify missing tools at Prairie Correctional Facility in Appleton, Minn. The prison, one of the state’s largest, has stood empty since 2010. Silhouettes help identify missing tools at Prairie Correctional Facility in Appleton, Minn. The prison, one of the state’s largest, has stood empty since 2010. But Prairie Correctional isn’t exactly Alcatraz, and “we’re probably not going to be hosting Olympics here,” said Jennifer Frost, executive director of Swift County Rural Development Authority. Not everyone was sad to see the prison go. Criticism over Prairie Correctional dates back as far as the prison itself. Rep. Debra Hilstrom, DFL-Brooklyn Center, has been an outspoken critic of the Appleton facility, and has repeatedly introduced bills calling for a ban on state contracts with private prisons. She said CCA has consistently failed to provide adequate treatment and other resources for prisoners in Minnesota. “You’re paying for a very expensive system, and you’re not getting what you pay for,” she said, announcing plans to reintroduce the bill this year. The labor union that represents correctional workers shares Hilstrom’s critique of CCA, and opposes any bill that would mean doing business with the company. The politics of reopening the prison also tap into a national debate. The American Civil Liberties Union has repeatedly criticized CCA, citing years of lawsuits and federal investigations they say point to a pattern of bad practices. Bernie Sanders and Hillary Clinton have both spoken out against for-private prisons in their presidential campaigns. Jonathan Burns, spokesman for CCA, said critics might misunderstand the proposal in Minnesota. If the state leases the prison, it would also operate it, and CCA would merely act as a landlord, he said. Jason and Julie Steuck, co-owners of JJ’s diner on Appleton’s main drag, said the town entered an economic slump after the prison closed and has never fully recovered. Jason and Julie Steuck, co-owners of JJ’s diner on Appleton’s main drag, said the town entered an economic slump after the prison closed and has never fully recovered. “What’s being discussed is simply a model where the state would run the facility with state employees,” said Burns. “That’s actually not the private prison model — that’s actually a different model.” Sen. Lyle Koenen, DFL-Clara City, whose district includes Swift County, said he’ll most likely carry the Appleton bill. Koenen is open to other options, like drug reform, but more space will be needed to accommodate the growing prison population, he said. A campaign is already mounting against the proposal. Gov. Mark Dayton and several DFL legislators say they favor an approach to curb the inmate population. Rep. Tony Cornish, R-Vernon Center, ranks among the prison’s supporters, both as solution to overcrowding and to the economic downturn in Swift County. He will oppose any proposal to expand DOC facilities and create more beds that doesn’t also include the Appleton plan, he said “I think it’s a total smoke and mirrors by the DFL,” said Cornish. “They will come up with horror stories about this prison and private prisons, but it all goes back to one thing, and that’s union protection by the DFL. It defies common sense.” Block is among ex-employees who have remained in Appleton since the facility closed. At the time, he’d climbed the ranks to lieutenant. Now he works winters as grain inspector and spends warmer months as a farm hand. If the prison does come back, he’d likely seek a job there, he said. But there’s a more important reason he wants to see it reopen: “Having the town become alive again. That’s what excited me the most — just to have that life back in the city that’s been missing so long since the prison closed.”

Feb 16, 2016 grandforksherald.com
Minnesota prison kept empty and waiting for inmates for 6 years, 1,640 beds at the ready
APPLETON — Security cameras keep a constant vigil on silent hallways leading to nearly 400 prison cells, every one empty but kept ready. “I’m sure one of your questions will also be does it always look like this or did we just clean it up for you to come. This is the way it always is,’’ said Daren Swenson as he escorted two reporters through the Prairie Correctional Facility in Appleton one week ago. For six years now, the 1,640-bed prison has been without inmates, but kept ready and waiting for new inmates. Swenson is vice president of facility operations for Corrections Corporation of America, owner of the vacant, private prison in Appleton. He served as its warden in 2002. He started his career in corrections here as among the first graduates of the prison’s training program when it opened as a 500-bed prison owned by the City of Appleton in September 1992. Corrections Corporation of America, headquartered in Nashville, Tennessee, purchased the facility in 1997, and oversaw two major expansions. At one point it employed 365 workers, 86 of whom lived within the City of Appleton, according to information from the Upper Minnesota Valley Regional Development Commission. The last inmates left in February 2010. Six employees remain on site today. Four are corrections officers providing security 24/7. A maintenance technician and supervisor keep the 348,000 square foot complex up to code, making sure it keeps its state licensing. CCA has continued to invest hundreds of thousands of dollars in its upkeep, according to Jonathan Burns, director of public affairs for CCA. It has upgraded the heating and ventilation systems, repaired the roof, and last year, re-painted much of the building. One HVAC project on the roof last year alone cost $750,000, he said. “It’s an asset the company owns,’’ said Burns when asked why the company continues to invest in the facility. “Maintaining the value of it and its attractiveness to potential government partners is just a part of responsibly maintaining the asset in general,’’ he said. CCA has been marketing the private prison to jurisdictions since its closing, but without success. Now, it’s hoping the state of Minnesota will be interested in leasing the prison and return state inmates to the facility. Governor Mark Dayton has not included funding for the Appleton facility in his bonding proposal for the upcoming legislative session, and has made known his preference to reduce the number of inmates. Nonetheless, a Swift County task force and area legislators believe the Appleton prison could help address the state’s prison needs, and will be urging the state to lease the facility. The state would operate and staff the facility with its own, unionized employees, according to the proposal. That’s not the “private prison model’’ that has generated much of the opposition to state use of the Appleton facility, according to Burn. He said CCA’s role would be limited to maintaining the facility. Leasing the facility would give the state time to pursue its own solution to prison overcrowding, whether that means changing sentencing guidelines to reduce the number of inmates or adding cells at existing facilities, according to Burns and Swenson. CCA has also made known its willingness to sell the Appleton facility to the state, Burns said. He said CCA believes an existing lease agreement with the State of California at the 2,300 inmate, Cal City facility owned by CCA could be the model for an agreement with Minnesota. Minnesota currently houses over 500 state prison inmates in county jails due to a lack of space in state prisons. Jails are designed for short-term detention, Swenson said. Prisons are designed for persons serving sentences. They offer the programming that improves an inmate’s prospects for a successful return to society, he said. The recent tour was designed to point out the variety of programming and services the facility is equipped to offer. The prison includes a hallway lined by classrooms and a computer lab. It was overseen by a full-time principal and 11 teachers. Seven instructors offered vocational classes and four offered high school equivalency programs. The prison’s spacious wood working shop remains equipped and ready for licensed education in construction and woodworking trades. The former Jacob’s Trading Post building remains within the electrified- and razor-wire fence that encloses the prison grounds. In the separate building, up to 200 inmates once worked in a federally certified Prison Industry Enhancement program. They earned minimum wages doing work rangimg from re-packing returned store goods from Wal-Mart to producing hockey jerseys. Room and board, restitution, child support payments and other debts were often taken from their paychecks, according to Swenson. Inmates also worked within the prison at jobs ranging from the laundry to the kitchen. A full time medical doctor, dentist, psychologist, RN’s and LPN’s were part of a prison staff providing 24/7 health care. The prison has a 26-bed inpatient, chemical dependency treatment center. It offered a full range of programming for drug and alcohol addiction. At one point, 216 community volunteers assisted with various programs addressing inmates’ spiritual needs and drug and alcohol dependency issues, according to Barbara Seidl, an assistant warden with CCA. The prison holds a chapel and an outdoor, sweat lodge for Native American religious practice. Putting it all back to work could be done as quickly as the state could assemble the staffing it would need, according to Burns. Burns said CCA’s pitch to the state of Minnesota comes down to this: Leasing the Prairie Correctional Facility offers an immediate solution that could alleviate the pressures the state is facing while it considers how to address its prison needs long-term. “We’re simply responding to interest, willing to make the facility available in the way that best suits the needs of the state if that’s what elected officials in the state choose to do,’’ he said.


Nov 11, 2015 mprnews.org
Appleton sees jobs, state sees problems reopening private prison

Appleton residents hope this closed privately owned prison will reopen with the help of the state. The state's only private prison sits in barbed-wire-enclosed isolation on the edge of Appleton. The Prairie Correctional Facility has been empty for about five years now. Residents hope to convince the state to lease space in the closed compound in western Minnesota, arguing that reopening the facility would bring hundreds of jobs to the region and help the state reduce prison overcrowding. State officials, however, don't like the idea of for-profit prisons. Whether Appleton gets those prison jobs back may hinge on which is the less unpopular of two options: spending more than $140 million taxpayer dollars to build prison cells, or helping the bottom line of the nation's largest private prison corporation. Prairie Correctional opened more than 20 years ago but closed in 2010 for lack of paying customers. The owner, Corrections Corporation of America, couldn't find any state or federal institutions willing to send inmates to the prison. "It seems to be a constant question of the folks in town: What's the prison doing? When's the prison going to open up? When are we going to see the folks that did have to move away possibly come back?" said Appleton Mayor Chad Syltie. Reopening the 1,600 bed facility would help reduce a county unemployment rate that's averaging over 6 percent this year, well above the statewide average of nearly 4 percent. "It would bring about 300 employees if it was to get up to full staff," said Syltie. "This would be a nice lift to the area if we were able to get this facility leased out to the state of Minnesota." When it was open, the economic benefits of the Prairie Correctional Facility were broad, said Tim Dittes, who owns a grocery store in town. "Oh, it'd be great to see it reopen," said Dittes. "It'd be great for the economy, great for the community, and it'd bring people back in. And it helps all the businesses." There's hope now in Appleton that the shortage of prison cells in Minnesota could make that happen. Right now inmates outnumber beds by more than 500 across the state. Minnesota contracts with county jails to house the overflow. The state would like to consolidate those inmates in one facility and Appleton is a possibility. But for that to happen again, some key players in state government would have to change their minds about private prisons like the one in Appleton. That remains a hard sell. State corrections commissioner Tom Roy says private prisons often fall short of delivering good service. Critics have charged things like rehabilitative programs and health care aren't adequate.  "I have said very publicly, as has the governor, that the support of private prisons is not on our agenda," said Roy. Despite those reservations, the state is talking with Nashville, Tenn.-based Corrections Corporation of America. With 70,000 inmates behind bars, the company bills itself as the nation's fifth largest prison system, behind only the federal government and three state operations. The company has told Minnesota officials the Appleton prison is available, CCA public affairs director Jonathan Burns said. "The arrangement we're discussing is one in which the facility would be managed and operated by the state, and staffed by state employees," said Burns. At this point, it looks like an uphill climb. The Appleton prison is not the state's first choice. Roy instead wants the Legislature to approve spending more than $140 million to expand the state's capacity by nearly 600 beds. That would pay for about two decades of leasing Appleton, according to figures cited by a company lobbyist. Roy isn't ruling out Appleton, but says he doesn't like the basic principle private prisons are built on. "The notion of incarceration for profit," he said, "I don't think is very popular in this state."

Oct 24, 2015 wctrib.com

Capitol Chatter: Hurdles remain to reopen private prison

ST. PAUL — Supporters of a shuttered private western Minnesota prison face plenty of roadblocks before they could get state inmates back in the facility. Optimism was strong Wednesday when two Democratic senators said they liked the idea of the state leasing and running the prison facility, with unionized state workers. But American Federal, State, County and Municipal Employees Council 5 union, which represents state prison workers, apparently will keep pressure on Democratic lawmakers to oppose the Appleton prison plan. “AFSCME opposes a lease arrangement that would give CCA a foothold in Minnesota,” AFSCME spokeswoman Jennifer Munt said about the Corrections Corporation of America, which used to run the prison itself. “Our union believes that private prisons should be prohibited. They shouldn’t be able to operate or lease their facilities in our state because it’s morally wrong for corporations to profit from human incarceration.” Munt said that the union supports using the facility, which has been closed since 2010. For it to be used as a prison, however, she said an acceptable option would be for the state to buy it. “Criminal justice is a core responsibility of government, and public workers should be protecting public safety,” Munt said. Munt said CCA, the country’s largest for-profit prison company, has left “a trail of horror stories about how they cut corners to make a buck. They’re notoriously understaffed and they don’t treat inmates for addiction and mental illness.” During Wednesday’s prison overcrowding task force meeting, some Democrats said they oppose CCA running a prison, but most did not directly address the state leasing the facilities and running the prison itself with union workers it hires. Unions are big Democratic political donors. As a CCA lobbyist said, however, any decision is down the road. The state and CCA must begin negotiations, and that probably cannot start unless the Legislature approves the concept during its short session that begins in March. Swift County Commissioner Gary Hendrickx and Appleton Mayor Chadwick Syltie told the prison task force that reopening the prison would help their economically struggling area.


Oct 10, 2015 wctrib.com

Economic tipping point triggers prison campaign

APPLETON — At a time when most agricultural counties were adding jobs, Swift County saw its unemployment rate pop up to 8.3 percent, the highest in the state. This was in June, when county officials also learned about a proposal by the Minnesota Department of Corrections asking $141 million in bond funds to add 500 new cells at the correctional facility in Rush City. As they dug into the issue, they learned that the state sees a possible need for 1,200 new prison beds by the early 2020s. “With a 1,600-bed facility vacant, we kind of raised our hands: Why not the facility in Appleton?’’ said Mike Pogge-Weaver, Swift County administrator. Ever since, a task force from Swift County and the city of Appleton along with Sen. Lyle Koenen, DFL-Clara City and Rep. Tim Miller, R-Prinsburg, have been working to convince the state: Leasing the Prairie Correctional Facility in Appleton is the answer to the state’s needs. The county also retained Goff Public of the Twin Cities to assist them in making the case. The Prairie Correctional Facility has not housed inmates since February 2010, but its owner keeps a full-time staff at the site to maintain it. City and county officials calculate that Corrections Corporation of America has invested millions of dollars to upgrade the facility since its closing. Last summer, Appleton residents watched as helicopters were put to work to replace roof-top air and heating systems at the prison. Inside its walls, CCA had already completed extensive work to upgrade its security level so that it could be marketed as a facility to hold federal inmates. It’s essentially a state-of-the-art facility, Miller said. CCA has made it clear it is willing to lease the facility to the state, according to Pogge-Weaver and Roman Fidler, Appleton city clerk. The company currently has a lease arrangement with the state of California. Leasing the facility would allow the state to staff it with its own employees, which is very important to the Department of Corrections, according to Pogge-Weaver. He said the state wants to make sure that inmates would receive the same programming and services as provided at other state facilities. They believe the state can better prepare inmates for re-entry into the outside world. The task force members also believe that state staffing resolves the concerns of the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees, the bargaining unit for state employees. AFSCME wants to maintain union workers in the state corrections system. The Department of Corrections is listening to Swift County and Appleton, according to Miller and Koenen. A state legislative task force is currently looking at the state’s overall prison needs, and the Appleton proposal was among the first items to be discussed. Appleton and Swift County officials have and will continue to make their pitch to its members. The Department of Corrections could enter into a lease agreement on its own with CCA, and no legislative action would be needed, according to Miller. But Koenen also pointed out that the Department of Corrections request for $141 million in bonding to build new cells remains on the table. As long as the request is there, it signals that the department and Gov. Mark Dayton want to pursue this option, he said. Adding to the challenge for making the cause on behalf of the Appleton facility are calls by legislators and organizations in the state for prison reform. Those calling for reforms want the state to reduce its prison population, the two legislators said. The reality today is that state prison cells are filled and there are perhaps as many as 500 state inmates being held temporarily in county jails, Fidler said. Kandiyohi County and Renville County are among the jails holding state inmates. Fidler said the Department of Corrections is confident that the county jails are meeting all that is asked of them. He also pointed out, however, that no one is making the case that county jails can provide the long-term services needed by many of these inmates. Leasing the Appleton facility could allow the state to provide the programming and save it the expense of building new cells. Miller and Koenen both noted that building new prison cells would take up a large share of any state bonding measure. It would also obligate the state to maintain prison cells for another 50 to 100 years that might not be needed if prison reforms are achieved. If the state leases prison cells, it can always end the relationship when the need for the cells no longer exists, Fidler said. “A home run for everybody,’’ he said of a possible lease agreement. He said the Department of Corrections has expressed concerns about the ability to staff the Appleton prison. He and others on the Swift County task force answer that the Appleton facility once had a staff of over 365 employees. Many of those workers commuted from a radius of 30 to 50 miles of Appleton. A 30-minute commute to work is the norm for many in the Twin Cities, and certainly no deterrent for rural residents, Fidler said. State jobs with benefits and union protections would be highly sought after in a rural economy. “I really don’t see any reason that people wouldn’t come to Appleton for the jobs,’’ he said.  With assistance from the Upper Minnesota Valley Regional Development Commission, the city of Appleton assembled these numbers a few years ago looking at the economic impact of the prison and its closing: 365 the number of jobs the prison once provided the regional economy 86 the number of lost jobs experienced directly in Appleton. $13,760,000 The dollar value multiplier of what the loss of jobs meant annually in economic activity for the community. $500,000 The amount of property taxes the facility pays to the city of Appleton. The taxes would be lost were the state to purchase the facility. $800,000 The approximate total property taxes paid by the facility including the city, county and school district. $50,000 The monthly utility bill the facility paid the city of Appleton when it was operating at full capacity. $300,000 The amount of local government aid the city of Appleton lost annually when the prison closed. Inmates had been counted as part of the city’s population in calculating LGA. 90 The number of students the local schools lost when the prison closed. $586,620 The estimated loss in pupil aid that resulted with the loss of students.

March 17, 2010 West Central Tribune
A tentative three-year tax agreement reached with the Corrections Corporation of America will mean lost revenues for Swift County, especially in 2011. Property taxes will likely increase to make up for a decrease in revenue that the Prairie Correctional Facility in Appleton had generated in the past, said Swift County Auditor Byron Giese. The prison, which closed in February, had appealed its $42.9 million valuation last fall, triggering a series of negotiation sessions. Following a closed meeting Tuesday, the Swift County Board of Commissioners approved a three-year deal that assumes the prison will remain empty in 2011 and hopeful that it will reopen in 2012, said Giese. The first part of the agreement includes a reduction in the 2009 valuation from $42.9 million to $32 million for the 2010 payable taxes. That translates into a loss of $50,000 in tax revenue to the county this year, which Giese said will have to come out of the county budget. “It’s something we have to deal with. It’s not insurmountable,” he said. Harder hit is the city of Appleton that will see $250,000 less in revenue. The Lac qui Parle Valley School District will have a decrease of $40,000 because of the lowered valuation of the prison, and the state will get $60,000 less Giese, said. The 2010 valuation, for taxes payable in 2011, will be lowered to $17.5 million. The financial impact on tax revenues for the local entities hadn’t been calculated with that low valuation. “Everyone will have to live with it and move forward,” Giese said. He said property taxes may have to increase 3 to 4 percent on each parcel to make up for the lost prison revenue: “Local taxpayers will pay more.” In the final phase of the three-year plan, the 2011 valuation for taxes payable in 2012 would increase to $21.5 million. “We’re anticipating that, hopefully, it’ll be open again,” said Giese, explaining why the valuation is scheduled to increase at that time. Corrections Corporation of America, which has other empty prisons in the system, has assured the county that reopening the Appleton prison is their number one priority. “It’s not good for any of us to have this thing closed,” Giese said. The board did express concern, however, that if the prison opens its doors again in a few months with the lower valuation that the county “could look like we have egg on our face,” said Giese. “But it would be a good thing to have it back open.” The tax plan was approved on a 4-1 vote, with Chairman Richard Hanson casting the lone no vote. Commissioners Gary Hendrickx, Joe Fox, Doug Anderson and Pete Peterson voted for the plan, which still must get final approval from Corrections Corporation of America and the courts. Another concern with the closed prison is the effect it will have on the 2010 Census. Ten years ago the facility had 1,400 prisoners that counted toward the county’s population. The population of a community is a factor in obtaining such things as federal aid. Giese said if the prison opens and the population increases in the future, the county could appeal the census count. The one bright spot financially for the county is that a $200,000 annual tax abatement that was part of the prison’s economic development incentive has expired after 10 years, said Giese.

February 2, 2010 KFGO
It's official. The Prairie Correctional facility at Appleton, in southwest Minnesota has closed. The private prison was the region's largest employer. 120 staff were laid off in December. The remaining 125 were out of jobs as of yesterday. Loss of contracts to house prisoners from other states with recession-related budget problems is blamed for the shutdown. Mayor Ron Ronning says it's a tremendous blow to the area economy, not only in lost jobs but in taxes and other fees paid to the city. Despite the bad news, Ronning gives prison owner, Tennessee-based Corrections Corporation of America high marks. The owner plans to spend 1.5 million dollars this quarter in upgrades, and has a plan to get the prison back in operation within 30 days if they can find prisoners to fill it. The private prison has a capacity of 16-hundred inmates.

January 19, 2010 AFL-CIO Now blog
In Minnesota, AFSCME and its correction officer members won a major victory in the fight against privatizing the state’s prisons when the Corrections Corporation of America (CCA) announced it is shutting down its 1,600-bed Prairie Correctional Facility in Appleton next month. Thanks to lobbying and pressure from AFSCME members, the state is placing more offenders in state-run facilities. The prison population at Prairie was down to just 250 at the end of 2009. Those inmates are being transferred to state facilities. Eliot Seide, AFSCME Council 5 executive director, says the union has been pushing government to take responsibility for corrections, not pass the buck to private corporations that profit from prisons. Tim Henderson, a corrections officer and president of AFSCME Local 2728, says the union successfully mobilized last year to block an attempt to shut down the state’s Moose Lake prison and transfer its inmates to Appleton. He says the state should not be “renting out its responsibilities.” We’ve been at war with the privateers, and we won’t stop until Minnesota places all of its inmates in state-run corrections facilities. Our efforts are paying off. A growing number of legislators are now convinced that privateers shouldn’t profit from prisons.

January 8, 2010 West Central Tribune
The upcoming closure of the Prairie Correctional Facility in Appleton will have financial implications for Swift County. This week the county received notice from prison owner Corrections Corporation of America that it had filed a tax appeal, claiming the property valuations and taxes due were too high. The appeal has become a normal practice since a 2003 out-of-court settlement between the county and Corrections Corporation of America. “It’s not a surprise. We knew it was coming,” said County Auditor Byron Giese. Every three years the county negotiates with the corporation, and they usually reach a three-year settlement, he said. The expected closure of the prison facility next month won’t change the negotiation process, but the final agreement could affect the county’s tax base. “It’s going to affect us, big time,” said Giese, adding that the county has retained the same attorney, Larry Harris, who negotiated the settlement for the two previous agreements. Whether the value of the facility will decrease once the prisoners have been moved out is “something that will have to be negotiated,” said Giese. The county is slowly starting to realize other areas, like its solid waste facility, that will be affected once the prison closes. The county facility, located in Benson, currently receives 7 tons to 8 tons of garbage a week from the prison, generating about $560 a week in revenue. When that waste stream ends, the county could lose $29,000 in annual revenue. Giese said the financial impact of the prison on the county’s finances are far-reaching. “There’s things we haven’t even thought of yet,” he said.

January 6, 2010 Star-Tribune
Hundreds of Pennsylvania prisoners who might have saved a cash-strapped private prison in western Minnesota from closing will go to state prisons in Michigan and Virginia instead. Those 2,000 medium-security inmates will be sent to under-used prisons that operate in similar fashion to what's being done in Pennsylvania, said Jeffrey Beard, the state's secretary of corrections. Minnesota had sent a proposal to Pennsylvania in hopes of keeping a private prison in Appleton open. That prison, which in past years had handled overflow from state-owned prisons in Minnesota and Washington, will close Feb. 1. Corrections Corp. of America (CCA), which owns the prison and runs 64 prisons in 19 states, is seeking a new state or federal contract to reopen the prison sometime this year. "A significant portion of that facility would have to be occupied" to reopen, said CCA spokesman Steve Owen. Pennsylvania's decision was a disappointment, he said. "Had that contract been secured, we could have kept Appleton open." Owen said his company had no advance notice of Pennsylvania's intentions when the decision was made in December to close the prison. It was an economic decision, he said, because occupancy at the 1,600-bed prison had dwindled to about 200 prisoners. The Minnesota Department of Corrections sent prisoners to Appleton in recent years when state-run prisons were full, but that need diminished with expansions in Faribault and other prisons, Deputy Director David Crist has said. Appleton also lost all of the inmates it once housed from Washington state. Kansas, Nevada and Oklahoma also asked for the Pennsylvania prisoner transfer, for which Pennsylvania would have paid all costs. Prisoners would remain in out-of-state prisons for three years. Pennsylvania's prison population stands at more than 51,000 in buildings intended to house 43,222 inmates. The Appleton closing will throw as many as 125 employees out of work. Owen said Wednesday that 18 workers from Appleton have thus far been hired by other CCA prisons. Appleton Mayor Ron Ronning, a prison employee, has said the closure will hit hard in the city of 2,700 residents.

December 26, 2009 AP
The closing of a private prison that once housed dozens of North Dakota inmates shouldn't affect the state's management of its prisoners, North Dakota's corrections director says. The Prairie Correctional Facility at Appleton, Minn., is shutting down Feb. 1. The prison, which is capable of holding about 1,600 inmates, is about 150 miles southeast of Fargo. Its owner, Corrections Corp. of America, which is based in Nashville, Tenn., said there has been much less demand for prison space from the states of Minnesota and Washington, the lockup's two primary customers. North Dakota's Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation used the Appleton prison for several years to relieve overcrowding problems in North Dakota's system. However, the state hasn't sent prisoners to Appleton since the spring of 2006, said Leann Bertsch, the agency's director. The private prison housed more than 40 North Dakota inmates that year.

December 19, 2009 Star-Tribune
Three years ago, an inmate at the Prairie Correctional Facility in Appleton, Minn., reported to a staff psychologist that a female kitchen supervisor sexually assaulted him in a storage room. While police investigated, prison officials placed the 42-year-old man in a segregation unit for a month, a move his attorney argued was retaliation for coming forward. The supervisor, Dorienne Homan, subsequently was charged and this past May entered an Alford plea to a count of fourth-degree sexual assault by a correctional employee. Under an Alford plea, a defendant asserts innocence but admits that there is enough evidence that the prosecution could likely win a conviction. She received no jail time. On Friday, when told that the inmate was now suing her and the prison, Homan maintained her innocence and expressed disappointment that "this issue hasn't been dropped." The suit, filed in U.S. District Court in Minneapolis this week, alleges that Homan, 36, reached inside the inmate's pants during a work shift and a day later asked if he wanted to have sex with her. When he said he wasn't interested, the suit says, Homan threatened to tell a guard the man sexually touched her. Feeling he had no choice, the inmate alleged in the suit that he gave in to her demands and had intercourse. A few days later, he told Homan that the assault caused mental and physical distress. According to the suit, she asked him whether he was going to "snitch" on her and said she had only joked about threatening to tell a guard about any sexual advances. During the criminal investigation, Homan was fired by Canteen, the food service that employed her for nine months. The inmate, referred to as John Doe in the lawsuit, suffered a lasting physical ailment from the assault, said his attorneys, Lori Peterson and J. Ashwin Madia. At the time of the incident, he was serving a sentence for a violent crime of a non-sexual nature and is continuing to serve it at Faribault Correctional Facility. "He decided to file the suit because he was frustrated this woman didn't get a more meaningful punishment or admit to what she did," Peterson said. "He's really angry and frustrated." Homan, of Odessa, Minn., was initially charged by the Swift County attorney's office with one count of third-degree and two counts of fourth-degree sexual assault by a correctional employee. Two of the counts were dropped as part of the plea agreement she reached in May. She is required to register as a predatory sex offender. "My family has been very, very supportive through all this," Homan said Friday. "The people who know me, they know I didn't do this." In the criminal complaint against Homan, she told authorities that she was never alone in the storage room with the inmate, a violation of prison policy. But prison surveillance videotape showed they were alone in the room for five minutes, according to the complaint. Homan's DNA was found in the inmate's underwear, the complaint said. Steve Meshbesher, Homan's criminal defense attorney, said Friday that she took the plea agreement because prosecutors offered the opportunity for an Alford plea, no jail time and unsupervised probation. "The risk of going to trial would be so much greater than the benefits of the deal we felt this would be something we couldn't pass up," he said. "So we took it and we are done with it."

December 6, 2009 INFORUM
Corrections Corporation of America plans to close its Prairie Correctional Facility in Appleton early next year. Warden Tim Wengler notified the facility’s remaining 125 employees of the decision on Friday. The warden said it was difficult news to deliver, but that he remains hopeful of seeing the facility reopened. The company will continue to market the facility and will reopen its doors if a contract to house new inmates can be negotiated, according to Louise Grant, vice president of marketing and communications with Corrections Corporation of America at its Nashville, Tenn., headquarters. The state of Minnesota will remove its 200 inmates in the private prison at the end of January, and that will leave the 1,600-bed facility empty, company officials said. Minnesota and the state of Washington have been slowly removing their inmates from Prairie Correctional Facility this year due to the availability of space in their own prison systems. “It’s not anything we didn’t expect, but when you actually hear it, it’s a different thing,” said Appleton Mayor Ron Ronning. The mayor is among those who will be laid off. He has been with the facility for more than 15 years, having started just one year after its opening.

December 4, 2009 Marketwire
Corrections Corporation of America (NYSE: CXW) ("CCA"), the nation's largest provider of corrections management services to government agencies, announced today its intention to cease operations at the CCA-owned and operated Prairie Correctional Facility located in Appleton, Minnesota. The 1,600-bed facility will officially cease operations on or about February 1, 2010. During 2009, the Prairie facility has housed offenders from the states of Minnesota and Washington. However, due to excess capacity in the states' systems, both states have been reducing the populations held at Prairie. The facility currently houses about 200 offenders from the state of Minnesota. The state of Washington has removed all of its offenders from the Prairie facility, but maintains a population of approximately 125 inmates in two CCA-owned facilities in Arizona. The closure of the Prairie facility is not expected to have a material impact on CCA's financial results.

October 3, 2009 West Central Tribune
Prairie Correctional Facility in Appleton is cutting its workforce by more than half in response to declining inmate numbers. The facility notified 120 workers Friday that they would be laid off effective Dec. 1. It will leave a working staff of 110, according to Warden Tim Wengler. The decision was forced when the private, 1,600-bed prison learned that the State of Washington would be removing 100 inmates, the warden told community representatives at a meeting on Friday. There are currently 342 inmates in the facility from the states of Washington and Minnesota. The warden and other administrators met earlier in the morning with employees at the facility, and have been meeting individually with those affected by the layoffs. The cuts go across the board, and involve administrative and correctional positions alike, according to the warden. The facility has been working hard to avoid layoffs since last spring when the state of Minnesota began to pare its number of inmates at the facility. The facility had avoided layoffs by reducing the two-week work period to 72 hours and by allowing workers to transfer to other facilities within the Corrections Corporation of America, the prison’s owner. The Nashville, Tenn., based company is extending that offer to all of the employees to be laid off. Steve Conry, vice president of operations for CCA, said Appleton employees were told they could transfer to other CCA facilities and maintain full pay and benefits with the promise they could return to their Appleton jobs when they become available. Conry said CCA could absorb virtually all of the laid off employees at other facilities, but realizes that many will be unwilling to leave families behind to relocate. He said the Appleton facility will host a job fair, and offer classes on job seeking skills as well as bringing in Minnesota Work Force representatives to assist the employees in the coming weeks. The company is also continuing to work hard to market the facility to other states, according to Conry. He blamed the decline in inmate numbers on tight state budgets and the facility’s location. He said nationwide, CCA has just opened a new facility in Georgia and is seeing lots of demand for housing inmates in the Deep South and the Far West. Appleton’s location in the Midwest puts it at a disadvantage right now, since many states are wary of the expenses associated with transportation. “It’s hard for those states to make decisions to go long distance,’’ he said.

September 6, 2009 Minnesota Public Radio
Residents of the western Minnesota town of Appleton are concerned about the future of one of the town's main employers, a private prison. The institution is operating at far less than its capacity of 1600. Prairie Correctional Facility's population is less than a third of that. The number of workers at the prison has also fallen by about a third, to around 250. Appleton Mayor Ron Ronning can see the impact of the decline from two sides--he also works at the prison. He said the town needs the jobs the prison provides and says the facility is important to city government because it contributes about a million dollars a year in revenue. "It's a livelihood for Appleton," said Ronning. "It's one of the biggest sources of incomes that we have in our budget." One reason for the decline is the state of Minnesota decision to move hundreds of its inmates out of the prison. Sarah Berg with the Minnesota Corrections Department said the state reduction will continue. Right now the Department of Corrections has about 200 offenders at the Prairie Correctional facility," she said. "And with our expansion at the Faribault prison we anticipate reducing our numbers at Prairie. But with population growth we expect to be using Prairie more in the future."

August 12, 2009 West Central Tribune
Hopes that inmates from Alaska could fill empty beds at the Prairie Correctional Facility were dashed on Monday. The Alaska Department of Corrections did not select the facility to hold its prisoners being housed outside of the state, according to information from Prairie Correctional Facility. “The Prairie Correctional Facility management and staff are obviously disappointed,’’ a news release from Prairie Correctional Facility on Monday stated. Published news accounts indicate that the Alaska Department of Corrections is entering into a contract with Cornell Corporation Inc. to house up to 1,000 inmates at its new facility in Hudson, Colo. The Alaska Department of Corrections is not renewing a contract it had with Corrections Corporation of America, which owns the Appleton facility. Corrections Corporation of America has been housing Alaska inmates in its Arizona facilities under the contract. Officials in Appleton were hoping that negotiations between the corporation and the Alaska Department of Corrections would bring inmates to fill empty beds. The 1,600-bed facility has seen its inmate numbers decline as the state of Minnesota begins transferring its inmates to state-run facilities. The Appleton prison also holds inmates from the state of Washington. To avoid layoffs, the Appleton facility adopted a new work schedule this summer. Hourly employees work 72 hours in every two-week pay period instead of the customary 80 hours. Salaried employees have also reduced their work schedules by taking one-week furloughs. The facility is one of the largest employers in Swift County, with 249 employees at the time the reduced hours were implemented in June to avoid layoffs. It has also worked to avoid job losses through attrition.

June 19, 2009 Morris Tribune
A $20 million difference of opinion in the market value of a privately owned prison in Appleton could end up in court. The Swift County assessor set the 2009 value of the property at $42.9 million. A representative of the Corrections Corporation of America told the Swift County Board of Appeal and Equalization on Tuesday the property should be valued at $23.7 million. The board, which is comprised of the members of the regular Board of Commissioners, denied a request to lower the property values. That will likely result in the prison filing a court appeal, said Auditor Byron Giese. Once that happens, then the county and prison officials can begin a negotiation process that will hopefully result in a value that all parties can agree to. If the two entities can’t agree on a number, “then we spend a whole bunch on money of attorneys and appraisers,” said Giese, and the case will be decided by a judge. Unlike residential property values that are set each year, Swift County and the prison have agreed to go through the complicated process every three years to establish a three-year schedule for the valuations. During the last round in 2006, the prison filed an appeal in court and then the two sides negotiated an agreement, said Giese. The county spent about $5,000 in legal fees. The commissioners are hoping a similar smooth scenario takes place this time. In 2003, a different approach was used. At that time, each entity hired appraisers and attorneys and negotiated an agreement without court intervention. Ironically, that method cost the county about $125,000 in legal fees. Giese said it’s actually easier to negotiate an agreement once an appeal has been filed in court, than doing it outside the boundaries of the court. Also, he said, when an agreement is negotiated during a court appeal, the settlement is binding. In 2006 the property value of the prison was set at $24 million. In 2007 it was $28 million and in 2008 it was set at $32 million. Although prison populations are decreasing and the prison is currently at 55 percent capacity, during the last three years it’s been at about 98 percent capacity, said Giese. That historical data was used to determine the 2009 rate.

June 5, 2009 Park Rapids Enterprise
Prairie Correctional Facility in Appleton is avoiding layoffs by cutting hours for all of its employees. The action comes in anticipation of declining inmate numbers. Workers at the private prison will work 72 hours in every two-week pay period, instead of the customary 80 hours, according to Warden Tim Wengler. Salaried staff will see a similar reduction by taking one-week furloughs. The plan was outlined to the facility’s 249 employees Wednesday. It’s expected to remain in place for three or four months, as the prison expects to see many of its Minnesota inmates transferred back to state-owned facilities. Wengler said the plan to reduce hours avoids layoffs for 40 some employees.

May 14, 2009 Morris Sun-Tribune
The State of Minnesota continues to slowly pluck its inmates from the Prairie Correctional Facility in Appleton, but what it takes with one hand could be returned with the other. Officials at the privately owned facility in Appleton are hopeful that legislation to repeal Minnesota’s short-term offender law will be signed into law. If so, state prisoners who now complete the final 180 days of their incarceration in county jails could be serving that time in the Appleton facility. The numbers vary, but there can be as many as 300 or 350 short-term offenders in county facilities at any one time. They could help make up for some of the long-term Minnesota offenders the facility is now losing, said Timothy Wengler, warden of the Prairie Correctional Facility. He cautioned that even if the short-term offender law is repealed, it could be weeks or months before the Appleton facility sees some of the offenders now being sent to county jails. The Minnesota Department of Corrections is carrying out plans to move its inmates in Appleton to its own facilities, primarily to the newly remodeled and expanded prison in Faribault. Those plans are the cause of concern in Appleton, where the Prairie Correctional Facility is one of the largest employers. A large crowd of people, many of them employees of the facility, voiced their anxieties in February at a town meeting hosted by local legislators. Wengler said the state has been removing its inmates in small numbers based on programming needs for the individuals. The facility currently holds 442 Minnesota inmates, down from 542 earlier this year. The drawdown hasn’t occurred as rapidly as originally feared, he said. Along with inmates from the state of Washington, the Appleton facility currently holds 855 inmates. Staffing levels at the facility are currently at 235, which he described as right where it should be for the current inmate population. The facility has a capacity of 1,600 beds, and the warden would like to see the beds filled and staffing increased again to 353 positions. It is currently working aggressively to market the available beds to other states. It recently sent a contract proposal to one interested party. The facility has been able to manage the loss of Minnesota inmates without cutting jobs. The facility has been able to reduce staffing costs entirely through attrition, Wengler said.

February 21, 2009 Morris Sun Tribune
Anxiety levels are running high in Appleton, where workers at the Prairie Correctional Facility are fearful that a proposal to transfer inmates to the Minnesota Correctional Facility in Faribault will cost them their jobs. “Devastating’’ is how Appleton Mayor Ron Ronning, himself an employee of the private prison, described the consequences to his community should the facility be closed or mothballed. The mayor was among well over 120 people, most of them employees of the facility, who packed the Appleton Civic Center on Friday morning for a town meeting hosted by State Sen. Gary Kubly, DFL-Granite Falls, and State Rep. Andrew Falk, DFL-Murdock. Mayor Ronning said he feared that Appleton and the surrounding rural area could see a major exodus of jobs and suffer the economic strife that gripped it during the farm crisis of the 1980s, when businesses shuttered their windows and homes were left vacant. The 1,600-bed Appleton facility is currently housing 542 inmates from Minnesota and another 525 from the state of Washington, according to Tim Wengler, its warden. The state of Washington has been slowly reducing its number of inmates. Joan Fabian, commissioner of the state Department of Corrections, has proposed moving the Minnesota inmates at Prairie Correctional Facility to Faribault, which has recently been expanded by 80 beds and is being remodeled. It would continue to use the Appleton facility on an “as needed basis,’’ according to Kubly. The loss of the Minnesota inmates would force Corrections Corporation of America, owner of the Appleton facility, to pare its staffing accordingly, Wengler told the Tribune. He said CCA is working aggressively to contract prisoners from other states, but acknowledged that it is proving difficult. It is currently negotiating with Alaska, but he noted that nearly every state is facing serious budget deficits and looking at ways to cut costs. The Appleton prison currently employs 269 people, down from a high of 370 positions. It has been paring its work force through attrition, and has not hired since last July, according to Prairie Correctional Facility officials. The Department of Corrections has provided testimony at the Capitol claiming that moving inmates to Faribault would save money, according to Kubly. Information provided by the department indicated that it costs Minnesota $77.11 per day to house an inmate in Appleton, when transportation and other costs are added to the daily contract cost with the private facility. The DOC claims it can house inmates at Faribault for an average of $55.38 per day. Those numbers were challenged at the town meeting. Swift County Commissioner Gary Hendrickx told the legislators that the DOC’s annual report for 2008 showed that its average inmate costs at Faribault were just over $109 per day. Kubly said that he has met with Fabian, who said the DOC’s figures comparing costs at Appleton and Faribault are the “marginal costs’’ and do not include all of the fixed costs. Appleton prison officials said the state is saving money by using the private facility, while inmates are receiving services every bit the equal of that offered by the state system. Wengler told the Tribune the state can save $25 million a year by keeping its inmates in Appleton.

September 30, 2008 Star Tribune
From where Toinette Gliem sits she can watch all four wings inside one of Faribault prison's new living units. Computer technology allows her to lock and unlock doors, explore corners of the wings with video cameras, even switch lights and water on and off. ¶ "There's a lot more control," said Gliem, 25, who works at computers designed to detect trouble. "It's just good all around. It's safer for the inmates, it's safer for the staff." Because of legislative appropriations totaling $129 million over the past three years, this sprawling medium-security institution in southeast Minnesota is rapidly transforming into the state's largest prison, already rivaling Stillwater. New, more secure buildings are opening while others are being remodeled or razed. As the landscape of this former hospital for the developmentally disabled changes, the Minnesota Department of Corrections has begun shifting an additional 600 inmates to Faribault. By the end of 2009, the prison will house 2,025 men. "In our old buildings, we had four, six, eight guys [per room] in some of those dormitories," said Connie Roehrich, Faribault's warden. "Too many people, too many problems." Many of the new inmates will come from Prairie Correctional Facility, a private prison in Appleton, Minn., where the state rents about 770 beds because of crowding at the state's eight adult prisons, said David Crist, the DOC's assistant commissioner of facilities services.

April 20, 2006 AP
Appleton, Minn. Swift County has raised the valuation of the Prairie Correctional Facility in Appleton, Wis., 128 percent. Officials from the privately-owned prison are contesting the valuation, which increased from $14 million in 2005 to nearly $32 million in 2006. Warden Daren Swenson met with Swift County Assessor Edward Pederson earlier this month. Swenson says under an agreement reached with the county three years ago, the prison's property taxes are currently at $670,000. If the 128 percent increase goes into effect, they will pay nearly $1.5 million next year. Prairie Correctional Facility is owned by Corrections Corporation of America.

January 25, 2006 AP
A private Minnesota prison is giving North Dakota more time to find space for inmates who have been housed there. The Appleton prison, operated by Corrections Corporation of America, notified North Dakota in November that it no longer had room for North Dakota prisoners. As of early this week, the state still had 48 prisoners in Appleton, which is more than 300 miles from Bismarck. North Dakota warden Tim Schuetzle said the Appleton prison has given North Dakota until the end of March to find another place for them. CCA offered to take some prisoners to another prison it operates in Colorado for the same price per day, per inmate - $54, Schuetzle said. But the Colorado lockup is about twice as far from Bismarck as the Minnesota prison, and the Colorado prison will only take 27 North Dakota prisoners, he said.

December 6, 2005 AP
A private prison in Minnesota can no longer take inmates from North Dakota, the North Dakota prison warden says. Warden Tim Schuetzle said the Prairie Correctional Facility in Appleton, Minn., is filling up with Minnesota inmates and can no longer house North Dakota prisoners. "Sometime over the next month or so we'll be moving the North Dakota inmates out of Appleton," he said. "That creates problems for us because we don't have any space at our prisons here." He said arrangements are being made to house prisoners at another privately run prison in Burlington, Colo. "But it's twice as far for us to transport inmates so it's more expensive," Schuetzle said.

November 15, 2005 Casper Star Tribune
When Idaho shipped 302 inmates to a private Minnesota prison last month, it was only easing overcrowding: The state's prisons remain above capacity, and Department of Correction officials appear likely to ask for a nearly $8 million cash infusion during the upcoming 2006 Legislature to handle the overflow. With a two-year contract, it'll cost Idaho about $1.1 million more to lock up its prisoners at the prison in Appleton, Minn., run by the Corrections Corporation of America. That's based on figures given by state officials on Oct. 27, when they said it would cost $53 per day in Minnesota, compared to $48 in Idaho. State prison officials, including prison system director Tom Beauclair, are arguing that this added burden, which doesn't include the cost of transporting inmates or keeping their records from afar, is another reason why Idaho should invest $160 million in new prisons. As a stopgap measure, Beauclair is expected in January to ask legislators for another $7.9 million for the current fiscal year to cover the cost of housing overflow inmates both out-of-state and in county jail cells. "Obviously the governor would prefer not to have to send folks out of state," said Mike Journee, spokesman for Gov. Dirk Kempthorne, in an interview with The Spokesman-Review newspaper. "That's a costly remedy for the situation."

October 21, 2005 AP
More than 300 Idaho inmates will be housed in Minnesota under an agreement with a private prison company, Idaho Department of Correction officials announced Friday. The inmates will be transferred from Idaho facilities to the Prairie Correctional Facility in Appleton, Minn., by the end of the month. Housing the inmates in Minnesota will cost Idaho taxpayers $53 per inmate per day, officials said. It costs about $48 per day to house an inmate in an Idaho prison.

September 8, 2005 Pioneer Press
Lawmakers must step up with cash to expand prisons in Minnesota if the state is to safely house the growing inmate population. We read with interest Bill Salisbury's piece in Tuesday's Pioneer Press on the upcoming tab for housing the state's prisoners and sex offenders, estimated at $140 million if the departments of Corrections and Human Services get all they say they need. The article hammers home a point we've been making for more than a year: If legislators stiffen sentences, they must also provide funds to house the increasing number of prisoners that result from their policy decisions. Corrections has been given some short-term relief as Wisconsin has withdrawn its prisoners from the Corrections Corporation of America facility in Appleton, which opened up about 1,300 beds. The expansion of the Faribault prison, which was part of the bonding bill passed in the last legislative session, will add a little more than 1,000 new beds. And expanding current facilities makes the most economic sense. According to Benson, expansion of existing facilities would result in long-term costs of about $45 a day per prisoner. By comparison, private jails, such as the CCA facility in Appleton, cost $55 a day to house each prisoner, but the real cost is closer to $70 a day when you factor in transportation and administrative costs, Benson said. Building a new facility is even more expensive.

July 24, 2005 Twin Cities
Better late than never for Faribault and Stillwater projects included in the bonding bill that finally passed last session.
The state finally passed a bonding bill in the last legislative session that included money to address some of these long-standing problems. The largest single project in the bill was $85 million to expand the Faribault prison, adding more than 700 beds. About $3.5 million was also committed to building a new 150-bed high-security lockup at Stillwater. Corrections is getting some relief due to the fact that Wisconsin is pulling its inmates out of the privately run Prairie Correctional Facility in Appleton, Minn., which will open up about 1,300 beds. But expanding Minnesota's existing facilities is by far the cheapest way to add space.  According to Benson, expanding existing facilities results in long-term costs of about $45 a day per prisoner. By comparison, private jails, such as the Appleton prison, cost $55 a day to house each prisoner, but the real cost is closer to $70 a day when you factor in transportation and administrative costs, Benson said. Building a brand new prison can be even more expensive.

Stillwater Prison
Jun 29, 2014 startribune.com

Inmate settles suit claiming negligence by the medical staff at Stillwater prison. A state prison inmate will be paid $130,000 by the Department of Corrections to settle a lawsuit accusing its medical staff of negligence and destruction of evidence in a 2012 incident that left him with permanent nerve damage. Erick Thomas, 32, an inmate at Stillwater prison, was later diagnosed with Brown-Sequard syndrome, the result of extensive, prolonged compression of his spinal cord.

The settlement is the latest in a series of cases dating to 2011 in which the department has paid more than $827,000 to inmates and their families to settle claims of negligence and inadequate care. Attorneys who work in the field of inmates’ rights say the department’s contracts with for-profit medical providers have resulted in a rationed health care operation that resulted in critical medical mistakes. In February, Legislative Auditor James Nobles issued a report critical of the state’s prison health system, saying it lacks oversight and outside accountability. Department officials would not comment specifically on Thomas’ case and defended the quality of prison medical care. “Resolving litigation in this manner does not assume wrongdoing was found,” the department said in a statement issued Thursday.

‘Faker’ note in log destroyed:

The lawsuit stems from an incident in which Thomas was found partly paralyzed in his cell one evening. The examining prison nurse left him propped up in the cell and then wrote the word “Faker” in her medical log. Records produced for the case showed that, after writing that entry, the nurse, Ellie Fuller, did not call a doctor before she went home for the night. The next morning Thomas was found lying on his cell floor, unable to communicate, and was sent to a Twin Cities hospital for emergency surgery. After he had been sent off, the nursing supervisor, Sara Hard, read the note in Thomas’ medical file. She was so alarmed that she ordered another nurse, Cassie Rider, to destroy the document, not knowing that Rider had secretly made a photocopy. When Rider refused the order, Hard destroyed the note herself, Rider said in interviews and in an affidavit. “Hard ordered me to destroy the Checklist because, according to her, ‘We can’t write (expletive) like that on anything and Ellie knows better than that,’ ” Rider stated. Fuller has retired and Hard has been demoted to senior nurse status, a department spokesperson said. Thomas, who is serving a drug sentence in the prison, is expected to be transferred this fall to a minimum security facility that offers a “boot camp” program to teach inmates self-discipline and skills in preparation of their release. If he passes the requirements, he could be released on probation by next spring, cutting his prison time by three years, he said. Today, Thomas is permanently numb on the right side of his body as a result of a blood clot that surgeons found pressing on his spine, which nearly killed him.

‘I’ve got a bigger plan’

In a recent interview, Thomas said that when released he hopes to start a home renovation business. “There’s no reason for me to do anything else — I’m not looking back at that life I had,” he said. “It’s all good, and I’ve got a bigger plan.” Thomas’ attorney, Steve Meshbesher of Minneapolis, said he plans to file suit against Corizon Inc., the for-profit health care company that was providing medical care at the time to more than 9,000 of the state’s prisoners. Meshbesher alleges that a doctor employed by Corizon who was on call the night Thomas suffered paralysis was negligent by not ordering that Thomas be examined by a hospital physician. As outlined in the Corizon contract at the time, prison doctors throughout the state’s corrections system left at 4:30 p.m. and nurses were gone by 11:30 p.m., leaving only corrections officers to face the often daunting medical issues of inmates. Last fall, Corizon’s bid to renew its contract was rejected by the state, and the company was replaced by Centurion Managed Care of St. Louis. Today, medical staffing levels generally remain the same under the two-year, $67.5 million contract.