Corrections facility in Appleton to close

A privately-run adult correctional facility in Minnesota plans to shut down in February after struggling to find enough inmates to fill its beds, company officials announced Friday.

Prairie Correctional Facility, a 1,600 bed private prison in Appleton, Minn., has contracted with the Minnesota Department of Corrections and other states to house offenders for 13 years. The prison employs about 125 people.

"This is very difficult, not only for our employees and their families, but also for that local community," said Louis Grant, spokesperson for Corrections Corporation of America, the facility's owner.

The number of Minnesotan inmates at the facility has decreased from 1,200 in December 2007 to 214 this month. The Department of Corrections plans to work with county jails to house the inmates once the facility closes.

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David Crist, Deputy Commissioner for the Minnesota Department of Corrections, said a decrease in methamphetamine-related offenders and the expansion of the Faribault Correctional Facility has increased the number of available beds in state facilities.

The number of methamphetamine-related offenders in the state's prison system decreased from a high of 1,138 in 2006 to 928 last year.

Over the same time period, the Faribault Correctional Facility has doubled its capacity to 2,005 beds.

"It's always more desirable and we think more cost-effective to use our own infrastructure rather than going outside of that and holding our beds empty," Crist said.

The state currently has 9,099 prison beds and 9,019 prisoners.

Corrections Corporation of America operates 64 other correctional facilities nationwide and hopes to relocate many of the displaced workers to another facility.

"We feel sorry for the employees over there that have done well by us in terms of housing our offenders for a long period of time," Crist said. "Economic conditions are terrible and we feel badly that those people are losing their jobs."

Company officials said they hope the closure will not be permanent and are looking for other state and federal contracts.