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Local Commentary -- Closing of Prairie Correctional Facility may be temporary

By Andrew Falk

I was disappointed to learn today that the Prairie Correctional Facility in Appleton will be closing on February 2, 2010. Even though, according to Corrections Corp of American (CCA), this may be only a temporary closure, it is troubling not only for the workers and their families but also for the community and surrounding areas.

Since being elected, I have worked and advocated to maintain the Appleton prison as a viable operation by working to bring the parties together and co-authoring a bill last session that would have strengthened the state's relationship with Prairie. I have worked closely with Department of Corrections Commissioner Joan Fabian, and appreciate her efforts to work with the people at Prairie Correctional Facility. Despite the best efforts to reach a compromise, Corrections Corporation of America (CCA), which owns the Prairie facility, has determined the facility is no longer financially viable and must be closed.

CCA has indicated they will continue to look for another state or federal partner whose prison system is overcrowded and needs immediate relief. If they are successful, they will consider re-opening the facility. I have already pledged my full endorsement of the workers, facility, and quality of rehabilitative services should CCA ask for help in the solicitation of these new contracts. In addition, I have contacted our Congressman and US Senators asking for their help in finding a solution to keep Prairie Correctional Facility operating.

There is no responsibility I take more seriously than the need to create and protect local jobs. I still haven't given up hope the situation with Prairie can be resolved, and I look forward to working with everyone involved to reach a solution. Whether it's Prairie, or any other local business, I will continue to look for ways to support business development, improve our job market, and strengthen our local economy.

Andrew Falk is Minnesota House Representative for District 20A.