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Minnesota to close 2 prisons

ST. PAUL (AP) — The Minnesota Department of Corrections said Monday it plans to close two state prisons to address a budget deficit.

The department said it has notified its staff and legislative leaders of its plans to close the state’s two smallest correctional facilities, in Togo and Willow River, with a combined annual budget of about $11 million.

Department officials said the closings are necessary because the Legislature adjourned the recent special session without acting on the agency’s supplemental budget request. The Corrections Department faces a budget deficit of about $14 million in the fiscal year ending June 20, 2021.

The department said it also plans additional cuts in the commissioner’s office personnel and central administrative services and to renegotiate purchase of service contracts to help balance the budget and stabilize the agency for the next two-year budget cycle.

“We take these steps out of a commitment to deliver critically needed services that offer opportunities for transformation and a safer Minnesota,” Corrections Commissioner Paul Schnell said in a statement.

The two prisons operate the Challenge Incarceration Program (CIP), aimed at reducing recidivism. The program identifies inmates who are good candidates for early release. The program will continue to operate at other existing facilities, the department said.

Togo has about 48 full-time employees while Willow River has about 51. Most of those positions will be eliminated, but some will be retained to continue operating CIP at other prisons.

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