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Minnesota House approves legislation banning private prisons

Thursday, March 23, 2023

St. Paul, MN - Today, the Minnesota House of Representatives passed House File 1200, authored by Rep. Dan Wolgamott (DFL - St. Cloud), which would effectively ban private prisons in the state. The bill passed on a vote of 70-61. 

“Private prisons have a troubling record of cutting corners in order to maximize profits. Recidivism is good for their bottom line, and more crime means more profit,” said Rep. Wolgamott. “Public safety should be done by public workers who are accountable to Minnesotans. It’s time to ban private prisons in Minnesota.”

House File 1200 bans private prisons in Minnesota by prohibiting the Department of Corrections and local sheriffs from allowing inmates in their custody to be housed in correctional facilities that are not owned and operated by state or local government. A 2016 report by the Justice Department found that, in general, private prisons provide fewer correctional services at greater security and safety risk to inmates and staff, without producing substantial savings.

“Providing public safety is a core responsibility of government. Minnesotans deserve a corrections system that keeps them safe by reducing recidivism,” said Speaker Melissa Hortman. “Corporations are required to put their profits first. Prison corporations have a record of being more dangerous for staff and incarcerated individuals. It’s time for us to take a clear stand and say that private prisons will not be allowed to operate in Minnesota.”

At least five other states have passed legislation aiming to reduce, limit, or ban private prisons. President Biden issued an executive order in January 2021 that will phase out the Justice Department’s use of private prisons, and Minnesota has not had any private prisons since the Prairie Correctional Facility in Appleton closed in 2010. 

The companion legislation is currently moving through the committee process in the Minnesota Senate. Video of today’s floor debate can be found on the House Public Information YouTube channel