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Legislature approves study of the prison system, $400,000 for consultant

The legislature approved a study of the Department of Corrections over the next two year period.

It comes in the wake of a proposal by the Department and Governor Burgum to move the women inmates out of the facility in New England to the Missouri River Correctional Center in Bismarck. The MRCC inmates would have been moved to the James River Correctional Center in Jamestown, using the existing state hospital facility. And the proposal was to build a new state hospital there.

Instead, the Legislature approved $400,000 to hire a consultant to help lead a study of corrections.

"We were moving people to two, sometimes three, different places," said Rep. Jon Nelson (R-Rugby). "It seemed like it was not well thought out."

Nelson said lawmakers acknowledge there are needs for the women inmates in New England that are not being met. And the Department of Corrections -- which leases the New England facility -- told lawmakers the building is in need of repair.

"My guess is there will be a proposal for a new facility for females," Nelson said. "That's just a guess."

Nelson said if the committee recommends a new facility, the question would be where to put it.

"Do we build at the MRCC on that property, or do we look for another avenue," Nelson said. "There are a lot of decisions to be made."

Nelson said beyond that, the study will look at the whole issue of incarceration – including what happens after the inmates are released.

"They need job skills," Nelson said. "They need to be able to be successful when they get out of incarceration. Are we serving that population well? We need to look at how we can do that the best we can."

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