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Politics

New legislation would “standardize” prison closures, according to lawmakers

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New legislation in the state Senate would create a long list of required items for the Department of Corrections to report when it closes a prison.

The legislation (SB694 and SB695) would require the Department of Corrections to announce a closure one year in advance and to outline the impacts to communities where closures would occur.

The legislation would also require the department to hold a hearing in the community where a closure is planned.

Republican State Senator Ed McBroom sponsored the legislation.

“My bills propose a methodology, a standardization of process for how how closures would be done, to make sure that the closure is truly done in a transparent way that taxpayers and legislatures can make sure is the right move to make,” he said.

McBroom said giving communities warning that a closure will occur is important. He points to the Ojibwa Correctional Facility closure in the UP - which occurred only five months after the community was informed.

“It’s just the devastation on the community that some advanced notice and some opportunity for retraining could at least have been a mitigating factor,” he said.

A 2018 Auditor General’s report found the department did not document how it uses information to support its basis for identifying facilities for closure.

McBroom said residents and lawmakers should be confident that the correct facilities are being closed.

“And as long as the process remains somewhat cloaked and hidden and not transparent people are going to continue not to trust that process every time that happens.”

The Department of Corrections disagreed with the findings of the Auditor General's report at the time, saying it provided “significant” data about its consideration process.

A spokesperson did not respond to our request for comment.