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Tue Aug 4, 2020, 12:57 AM

Citing budget shortfalls, Department of Corrections to close two Minnesota prisons

The Department of Corrections plans to shutter operations at its two smallest prisons in greater Minnesota, an unprecedented cost-saving measure that will result in the layoffs of 100 more employees to help reduce a projected $14 million deficit.

Corrections Commissioner Paul Schnell on Monday announced his intent to close minimum-security facilities in Togo and Willow River, which host the popular Challenge Incarceration Program (CIP), a military-style boot camp for nonviolent inmates to earn early release. About 150 prisoners housed at those sites will be transferred to other facilities starting this fall, when that program is slated to resume.

"Our budget is in crisis," Schnell wrote in a departmentwide e-mail obtained by the Star Tribune. "With each week that passes without taking these steps, the hole only gets deeper, potentially leading to more needed savings. We have to take strong decisive action now."

The disclosure comes just two weeks after the department cut 48 jobs across the state to meet "unforeseen budget shortfalls" related to the corona­virus pandemic. A senior official told lawmakers last month that contractual salary increases, ballooning overtime for officers and loss of revenue from the agency's industrial MINNCOR program all contributed to the deficit — which is expected to nearly double in the next biennium without significant cuts.

Read more: https://www.startribune.com/citing-budget-shortfalls-doc-to-close-two-minnesota-prisons/571994242/

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