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House committee rejects proposal to sell some prison properties in Burleigh and Morton Counties

Rep. Mike Schatz (R-New England)
North Dakota Legislative Council
Rep. Mike Schatz (R-New England)

A House committee has put a “do not pass” recommendation on a measure that would have forced the Department of Corrections to sell property it has in Burleigh and Morton Counties – outside of the State Penitentiary.

It would have affected the minimum security Missouri River Correctional Center, south of Bismarck, as well as the Youth Correctional Center and a women’s prison facility in Mandan.

Rep. Mike Schatz (R-New England) introduced the bill. He told the House Political Subdivisions Committee – the measure would also call for the construction of two new facilities on state land in Burleigh and Morton Counties – a Youth Correctional center and a minimum security men’s prison -- at a total cost of $587 million. And he proposed the money would come from the sale of the land.

"They are very valuable, and will make the state a great deal of money," Schatz said. "The state will be able to build new facilities for the MRCC and the YCC."

Schatz said because the Bismarck and Mandan communities are the fastest growing cities in the region, the properties will make way for more housing and expansion.

"To have correctional centers surrounded by residential areas just doesn't make a lot of sense," Schatz said.

Schatz’ plan would keep the current women’s prison in New England. Corrections is converting it to a treatment center for inmates with mental health issues.

New England is the current home of the Women's Prison.

"I feel the people there do an outstanding job," Schatz said.

Schatz said DOCR has a plan to build a $161 million facility for women in Mandan.

"But I say, why are they trying to fix something that isn't broken?" Schatz said. "New England's facility is a women's prison, not a mental hospital."

Schatz said he thinks inmates with mental health issues should be sent to the State Hospital in Jamestown. However, Corrections officials said the current State Hospital doesn’t have space for those inmates.

"We've had a lot of discussions with the folks at New England," said Corrections Director Dave Krabbenhoft. "They're on board."

Krabbenhoft said the plan is to repurpose that facility for secured residential treatment.

The Committee voted 10 to 2 for the “do not pass” recommendation.

The bill is HB 1433.

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