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New prison -- or remodeled cell block?

By Dave Thompson

Bismarck, ND – The chairman of an interim Legislative committee that's been looking at the needs of the prison system says lawmakers need to get more of a handle on the whole system of corrections -- including putting people behind bars and putting people in treatment.

Rep. Al Carlson (R-Fargo) says this should guide discussions on building bricks and mortar for the state prison.

Carlson's committee will be looking at several options -- including one endorsed by Gov. John Hoeven, to tear down an old cell house and rebuild it. Another would tear the old prison down and rebuild it at another location.

Carlson says treatment needs to be a part of the equation.

"We're concerned that -- with methamphetimine, and treatment for meth, we need to look at a modern-day facility that keeps a lot of those drug users that may or may not be serious offenders or dangerous to the community -- how do we deal with them and properly get them treated and back into their communities?" said Carlson. "It's a complicated issue."

Carlson says his committee will meet next month to make its recommendation.

"Our prison population is starting to plateau," said Carlson. "When we look at the long-term statistics, the growth we've experienced seems to be slowing down. So we're hoping to have a facility that will last for a long time to come."