HF1510 Testimony from Meghan Hill, Founder and President of JCA at the U of MN, on the proposed reopening of the Prairie Correctional Facility in Appleton, MN

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Hello, my name is Meghan Hill I am on the board of directors of Minnesota Public Interest Research Group. Additionally, I am the founder and president of Jewish Community Action at the University of Minnesota. I am resident of Minneapolis and a Neuroscience and Psychology student at the University of Minnesota. Today I’d like to speak as the moral and logical voice in opposition to mass incarceration, specifically in regards to the proposed reopening of the Prairie Correctional Facility in Appleton.

To start, I’d like to reiterate the humans rights violations committed by Core Civic. From forced labor, food shortages, poor sanitation-even forcing prisoners to defecate in plastic bags to multiple reports of excessive force and dangerous conditions. Most notably, core civic is infamous for medical negligence at one facility drinking water was prescribed for broken fingers, a dislocated shoulder, and post surgery care. This is not a corporation I'd like to see earn a foothold in our state.

Even without private ownership and operation, reopening this facility is not the answer. Appleton is a 3 hours drive west of the metro area. If we were to ship inmates to this remote location it would create a profound obstacle in maintaining familial connections. If we are implementing an additional obstacle between inmates and their families by reopening this facility, we are contributing to the increased likelihood that they will end up stuck in the revolving door that is the criminal justice system. And as we all know when we have empty beds, we will fill them. I fear by having this short term mindset we will end in this same place time and time again.

I'd like to make it clear, we are not against the city of Appleton. We too would like to see their economy prosper; however, doing this at the expense of human beings is immoral. There are alternatives. As I mentioned earlier, I am a student, and working with MPIRG I have met students from our Morris chapter. These students are bright individuals with outstanding goals and aspirations. If we really want to see rural Minnesota grow, we need to make it attractive for young people to want to live there. A prison is not going to achieve that. Appleton, and the people of Rural minnesota have the potential and the need to be the leaders of something better. From the deficit in rural healthcare to the capacity for renewable energy and water quality, these are the industries that will make jobs, and attract young people to the Prairie.  

In closing, My colleagues and I refuse to stand idly by as individuals in power make the regretful decision to expand our prison system and build an economy off the backs of inmates, while failing to address the root cause of the issue and explore alternatives. It is time we stop pinning the interests of economically distressed communities against each other. It is time we do better for our communities of color that for so long have been devastated by mass incarceration and countless other forms of institutional racism. And it is time to do better for rural Minnesota who are hurting, and fighting to regain their sense of home.

I sincerely hope you all will make the right decision in saying no to this unethical implementation of mass incarceration. Thank you.

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