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Dem-NPL leader says prison spending is not popular

By Dave Thompson

Bismarck, ND – Senate Minority Leader David O'Connell (D-Lansford) says he supports a plan for remodeling and construction at the current prison site.

But O'Connell says there's not a lot of public support for spending the millions of dollars it'll take for the project.

"When I'm out in the field, it's unbelievable -- there's no compassion at all for prisoners," said O'Connell, who is a member of the special prison interim committee. "I'm probably singled out -- I'll be eating in a restaurant, and somebody asks me, 'Aren't you the guy that's on that committee?' I even hate to say 'yes' anymore. People unload on me -- they don't want to spend money on prisoners."

However, O'Connell says there is a need to upgrade the present facility -- for the prison workers, as well as the prisoners.

O'Connell also says he would like to see expanded vocational training offered at the prison.

"We're short of workers, and we can give some of these people a second chance," said O'Connell. "If they screw up a second time, I've got no compassion. I'm not soft on crime -- but for people who have gotten caught passing a bad check or a minor theft, and it's their first offense, if we can get them back into society as a taxpayer, I'm all for that."

O'Connell says he would offer such things as training in welding and plumbing -- which are high-paying jobs.