The Minnesota Department of Corrections has announced its plan to close two of its smallest prisons, the Willow River and Togo facilities, in order to address a budget crisis.
The closure comes after the legislature adjourned from the recent special session without action on the agency’s supplemental budget request. The Department of Corrections faces a budget deficiency of approximately $14 million in the fiscal year ending June 30, 2021.
While the state’s next biennial budget will not be set until next year, the agency is readying for the economic challenges caused by the COVID-19 global pandemic.
“We take these steps out of a commitment to deliver critically needed services that offer opportunity for transformation and a safer Minnesota,” said DOC Commissioner Paul Schnell. “While the actions we announced today are immensely difficult, Minnesotans rightly expect that we be responsible stewards of public resources as we fulfill the agency’s mission,” Schnell added.
According to the MN DOC, the two facilities have a combined annual budget of around $11 million. Corrections officials went onto say they will be eliminating around 99 positions between Togo and Willow River.
Both facilities operate the Challenge Incarceration Program (CIP), which the corrections officials say will continue to operate in full at other existing facilities. Some staff will be kept on to carry out the CIP at other sites.
The agency says that they will begin work with staff, labor partners, and other stakeholders to develop a plan to implement the new changes.