MN lawmakers look to ban private prisons becoming ICE detention centers

A private prison in Appleton is currently in negotiations with ICE.

Correction: An earlier version of this story stated that a 1-year-old child died at an immigration detention center operated by CoreCivic. This was inaccurate, as the child died 6 weeks after they left the facility. BMTN apologizes for the error.

A pair of Minnesota lawmakers want to ban for-profit immigrant detention centers amid debate over a potential new location in the state.

Rep. Michael Howard (DFL-Richfield) and Rep. Aisha Gomez (DFL-Minneapolis) announced Friday that they intend to introduce legislation next session to ban for-profit Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) detention centers in Minnesota.

“Profiting from the detention of immigrant families is immoral, wrong, and has no place in the State of Minnesota,” said Howard in a statement. “The aggressive and expanding presence of ICE in my community and across the state is causing trauma for too many families and that will only worsen if we permit more cages to be built and operated by a for-profit company. We need to say loud and clear – not in Minnesota.”

The two lawmakers introduced the legislation shortly after MPR reported that a private prison in Appleton, Minn. was in negotiations with ICE about the possibility of housing those with immigration violations.

Residents are split on the issue, and the prison’s bid was rejected last month. Still, MPR reports discussions are ongoing.

House Majority Leader Ryan Winkler introduced legislation last session to ban private prisons in Minnesota, though it did not end up passing. The bill would have prohibited county sheriffs and the Department of Corrections from housing inmates in facilities not owned by state or local government.

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The bill to ban private-prisons from acting as detention centers is a natural extension of that legislation, according to the statement from Howard’s office.

According to Session Daily, this bill came as an investigation of private prison group CoreCivic (now rebranded as the Corrections Corporation of America) found inmates in prisons under the company lived in “terrible” conditions.

CoreCivic owns the prison in question in Appleton. 

Per the AP, CoreCivic is the subject of a lawsuit in Texas after a 1-year-old detainee died weeks after being released from a CoreCivic-owned prison operating as a detention center.

There are not currently any ICE detention centers in Minnesota though there are two in Wisconsin, in Kenosha and Juneau. ICE lists three county jails – in Sherburne, Carver and Freeborn counties – as its holding facilities in Minnesota.

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