Do you support the reopening of a private prison in Appleton?

"A Minnesota House panel on Tuesday approved Republican-backed legislation that would reopen the privately owned prison in Appleton, Minn., under state management," writes MPR News Tim Pugmire.

Supporters see the move as a way to create some much-needed jobs in a struggling part of rural western Minnesota. Opponents, however, argued there would be a high human price to such economic development. Their loud objections forced lawmakers to briefly shut down the public hearing.

Committee members later approved the bill 10-7 on a party-line vote with Republicans supporting and Democrats against. Those divisions are likely to remain as it moves through the Legislature. Lawmakers expect to have a clearer estimate of the bill's cost by its next committee stop.

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Legislators should be talking about closing prisons, not opening more, said the Rev. Brian Herron of the faith-based coalition group ISAIAH.

"There's no way you're going to open something and not find a way to fill it," he told lawmakers. "It's going to be filled with black and brown bodies. We already know that."

State Rep. Debra Hilstrom, DFL-Brooklyn Center, tried unsuccessfully to amend the bill with a statewide ban on private prisons. Hilstrom said the state had good reasons for ending its relationship with CCA six years ago. She said the company cherry-picked prisoners and failed to provide state-required services.

"It was Gov. Pawlenty in 2010 who stopped renting beds," Hilstrom said. "So, this isn't a Democratic or a Republican issue. This is about doing right for the state of Minnesota."

Today's Question: Do you support the reopening of a private prison in Appleton?

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