Mandan News

Letter to the editor: No prison in Mandan

The North Dakota House of Representatives and the Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation want to move the Missouri River Correctional Center (a 154-bed prison) to a site near the Youth Correctional Center (on the south side of the Heart River in Mandan, within a stone’s throw from my neighborhood, within each of your communities, and within the residential growth corridor of Mandan and Morton County).

The “comprise” to a plan to move the prison from the existing site in south Bismarck may be at the expense of Mandan and Morton County residents. The plan calls for residents of south Mandan to get a prison, while residents of south Bismarck get a 900-acre nature park.

Sounds like quite a trade… for Bismarck.

The amended version of House Bill 1312 will put a prison in south Mandan. This seems like an under the table deal, and it already slid through House.  Proponents of the Mandan site argue there is not enough room at the state prison site in Bismarck, and they can’t have low-level and high-level offenders in the same area. Yet many prisons and county detention centers across the country operate higher bed-count facilities with less land, and have several classifications of offenders living on the same compound. (Minnesota Correctional Facility – Stillwater in Bayport, Minn., has a high-level prison similar to the North Dakota State Penitentiary, with a low-level facility just outside the fence). Even still, there appears to be a belief that co-mingling adult and juvenile facilities are a better alternative than two adult facilities.

Another argument for the Mandan site is that no community should have two prisons. I find this argument preposterous, as what good would moving the prison a few miles west do for the inmates and their families. We need to look at where the inmates are coming from, and look at the growth of N.D. Wouldn’t the inmates and their families be better served with facilities nearer to Minot or Williston (serving the oil field, the fastest growing communities, and three Native American Reservations)? Families would be closer to their loved ones and offenders could look at reintegrating into their own communities easier. We need to save exponentially through rehabilitation, not a few bucks through shared services.

I am extremely concerned that moving a prison will affect our residents’ sense of security in their own home, and my children’s and grandchildren’s security. Having no walkaways in a few years says nothing to how my family and my community feel at night when they sleep or when they let their children out to play, or their teenagers to school and work. What type of offenders will be placed at the proposed site? Will they have work release? Where will they go to treatment? How will they be transported? How many sex offenders? How many violent offenders? How many drug offenders? How many will be staying in Mandan upon release? We don’t know the answers to these questions because they have not been offered to the community they effect.

I don’t believe Mandan should be a dumping ground of a facility Bismarck doesn’t want. The ramifications of building a prison will last forever. That this amendment already passed the House with nobody in my community aware is a joke. I insist there should be a public hearing so that concerned citizens can voice their opinion and get their questions answered. We, as Mandan and Morton County citizens, are not having our voices heard. Why is the legislature jumping on this massive and irreversible decision right now, just to prepare for a nature park in south Bismarck? I urge residents and community leaders to ensure Mandan and Morton County are desirable to work, shop, be entertained, and raise a family. This is moving quickly, and the time for action is now.

I appeal to Mandan and Morton County leaders to put money aside and think of the safety and image we want to portray in our community. It is not to put our sense of small-town community at risk for a few dollars from a prison. Let’s build a school, not a prison.

 

-Lori Dailey, Mandan