House Republicans Question DOC Commissioner Over Prison Closings
ST. PAUL – Representatives Brian Johnson, R-Cambridge, and Marion O’Neill, R-Maple Lake, sent a letter to Department of Corrections (DOC) Commissioner Paul Schnell questioning the closing of the Togo and Willow River Correctional Facilities. The GOP Public Safety and Corrections committee leads expressed their concern about the closings, as the Challenge Incarceration Program at the two facilities has proven successful in the current locations.
“The Challenge Incarceration Program has been working, and that is at least in part due to the facilities’ locations,” said Johnson. “This solution seems counterintuitive, and we are concerned it may cost the state more in the long run to shift the programming to other locations.”
The first phase of the Challenge Incarceration Program (CIP) includes programming in chemical dependency treatment; education; cognitive skills; restorative justice; physical training; military bearing, drill, and ceremony; work crew; and transition preparation. The second and third phases include intensive, close supervision in the community. After an in-depth evaluation in 2006, CIP was shown to decrease the chances of reoffending with a new felony conviction by 32 percent, and decrease the chances of reincarceration for a new crime by 35 percent.
“It is important that we get answers to why this decision was made, instead of any number of other budgetary changes that could have addressed the department’s shortfall,” said O’Neill. “It is possible that moving this program could have a negative effect on the participants, and that would be a disservice to both the participants and to the entire state.”