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Minnesota – Corrections Officers Beat Privateers

In a major triumph in the fight against privatization, CCA shut down its Prairie Correctional Facility in Appleton in February. After battling for 15 years to keep privateers out of Minnesota, AFSCME’s efforts finally paid off.

Appleton, Minnesota

In a major triumph in Council 5's fight against privatization, Corrections Corporation of America (CCA) shut down its Prairie Correctional Facility in Appleton in February. After battling for 15 years to keep privateers out of Minnesota, AFSCME’s efforts finally paid off: The first and only private prison in the state is now closed.

“This shutdown is a huge victory for us,” says Eliot Seide, the council’s executive director and an AFSCME International vice president. “We’re pushing government to take responsibility for corrections, not pass the buck to private corporations that profit from prisons.”

When CCA took over the 1,600-bed prison in 1996, it housed prisoners from Minnesota, North Dakota and Washington. But there has been much less demand for prison space from these three states in recent years.

Last year, AFSCME members successfully blocked an attempt to shut down the state’s Moose Lake prison and transfer its inmates to Appleton. The privately-owned jail housed fewer than 250 offenders in 2009. This winter, they were transferred to a public detention complex in Faribault.

Now AFSCME is seeking a permanent end to private prisons in Minnesota. “We have been lobbying for a bill that will prevent our state from renting out its responsibilities,” says Tim Henderson, a corrections officer and president of Local 2728 (Council 5). “Our efforts arepaying off. A growing number of legislators are now convinced that privateers shouldn’t profit from prisons.”

In February — due in large measure to AFSCME’s prodding — state legislators introduced a bill that prevents housing inmates in privately-owned prisons and makes it illegal for the state to contract with private prisons in other states. If this measure passes, Minnesota would be the fourth state to ban privatization of public corrections facilities.

“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,” Henderson asserts. “That is our mission.”

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