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Bonding bill could help keep Northland prisons operating, but for how long?

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TOGO,MN-- Minnesota's $1.9 dollar bonding bill includes some critical funding to keep two Northland prisons afloat for at least another year.

Earlier this summer, the Minnesota Department of Corrections were looking at a potential closure of the Togo and Willow River state run facilities.

Department of Corrections Commissioner Paul Schnell said, "The Department of Corrections ended up being seven and a half million dollars short of operating funds to be able to operate all of our facilitates. In order to make our budget the closures were announced in early August."

But after the Minnesota House passed a bonding bill, giving the Department of Corrections $7.5 million dollars the two facilities won't be closing their doors just yet.

"The action taken by the legislature yesterday was really the difference between these two prisons being able to operate and not," said Schnell.

Both facilities in Togo and Willow River run Challenge Incarceration Programs and Minnesota state Senator David Tomassoni said the facilities are making a difference and keeping them operating wasn't a question.

"This is a program that actually works and reduces recidivism and so the fact that we were able to keep jobs whole and keep those people intact is really satisfying," said Tomassoni.

While the funding will keep the facilities running, Commissioner Paul Schnell doesn't believe it's not a long-term solution.

Schnell added, "Those are questions we don't know yet, those are certainly issuing that'll be grappled with in the next legislative session as they set that biannual budget."

Meanwhile Tomassoni said, he's confident next budgeting session they'll be able to find funding to keep the facilities running.

"In the prison system, if you have a program that actually works you should keep doing it. And I'm hoping we just keep doing this one," added Tomassoni.

Officials in Willow River and the Togo area said they are very pleased with the announcement.

Adding it means residents in the area can keep jobs, especially during the pandemic.

Emma Quinn

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