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Justice Dept. phasing out private prisons leads to speculation about the future of Appleton facility

Thanks, Obama. The West Central Tribune’s Carolyn Lange reports: “News Thursday that the federal government intends to phase out use of privately owned prisons has renewed questions about the future of the privately owned prison in Appleton. … The 1,640-bed prison in Appleton has been empty since 2010 when the owners—Corrections Corporation of America—closed the facility. … During the last year Corrections Corporation of America and officials from Appleton and Swift County launched a campaign to persuade the state to lease—or buy—the prison to ease overcrowded state prisons. … But there’s speculation now that the Appleton prison may be available at a bargain price after CCA’s stock prices plunged about 35 percent a few hours after the announcement by the Department of Justice.

Sounds like an amazing journey. In the New York Times, writer Porter Fox describes a trip by boat from Montreal to Duluth: “I’d been waiting 20 minutes for my ride — a 740-foot freighter called the Algoma Equinox. The Equinox traverses the St. Lawrence and four Great Lakes twice a month, transporting iron ore west and grain back east. Like many freighters around the world, it also occasionally carries people. Travelers willing to take the slow boat get a private cabin, three meals a day and shore leave wherever the ship loads, unloads or stops at a lock. … After picking me up in Montreal, the Equinox’s captain, Ross Armstrong, told me the ship would cross Lakes Ontario, Erie, Huron and Superior and drop me in Thunder Bay, Ontario — six hours north of Duluth, Minn. The trip would take six days.”

Quite a turnaround. The Pioneer Press’ Andy Greder details Minnesota United’s journey from near-bankruptcy to the major leagues: “Minnesota’s pro soccer team was on the verge of folding in 2009. … That’s when Djorn Buchholz, the club’s general manager, took out his personal credit card and paid for the Minnesota Thunder to travel to their final road game of the season. … ‘There was no way I wasn’t going to send the team,’ Buchholz told the Pioneer Press last week. ‘Do I regret it? Probably not. It took me a while to pay it off, but at the time, I thought it was the right thing to do.’”

The Minnesota Orchestra’s European tour is kicking off in Finland next week. Helsingin Sanomat’s Vesa Sirén has the lowdown on Osmo Vanskä’s homecoming: ‘Hulluttelua ei ole koskaan tehty klassisessa musiikissa liikaa,’ sanoo Minnesotan orkesterin musiikillinen johtaja Osmo Vänskä. … 63-vuotias maailmantähti tuo yhdysvaltalaisorkesterinsa tänä sunnuntaina Euroopan-kiertueen aluksi Lahden Sibeliustaloon. Konsertti myydään taatusti loppuun. Perjantai-iltapäivänä lippuja oli jäljellä enää kymmenen.”

In other news…

Good on Charles Schulz: “How Peanuts’ Peppermint Patty became a fierce advocate for female athletes” [Sports Illustrated]

Dontcha know: “’We Don’t Talk Like That’: Reflecting on ‘Fargo’ 20 years later” [MPR]

Bad apple? “Inver Grove Heights police chief accused of tipping off theft suspect” [Star Tribune]

R.I.P.: Retired Army Gen. John Vessey, Minnesotan who led Joint Chiefs of Staff, dies at 94” [Star Tribune]

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Comments (4)

  1. Submitted by Julie Barton on 08/19/2016 - 02:17 pm.

    ‘Hulluttelua’ is whimsy!

    Thank you for the report on the MN Orchestra’s trip to Finland. I laughed out loud upon “reading” it.

    Google’s translator did a fairly decent job of giving me the gist of the article, but it failed completely with “yhdysvaltalaisorkesterinsa….”

    • Submitted by Ray Schoch on 08/19/2016 - 03:44 pm.


      I thought perhaps the late Jim Henson’s Swedish Chef was making a comeback, then remembered the orchestra went to Finland. Finns and Swedes have not always gotten along, so I had to drop the idea… Either way, I won’t attempt to pronounce “yhdysvaltalaisorkesterinsa” myself…

  2. Submitted by Joel Stegner on 08/20/2016 - 07:23 am.

    Appleton prison

    The idea of buying the prison at a bargain basement price should be pursued as the most cost effective way to immediately address prison overcrowding and the inappropriate use of county jails.

    First, it should be the preferred place to put prisoners coming from the western half of the state, making it much easier for rural Minnesota families to maintain contact with their imprisoned loved ones.

    Second, it would be an excellent place for a geriatric prisoner population that are in for very long stays and are physically non aggressive – sort of like a combination prison and assisted living facility.

    Finally having the extra capacity it would provide gives the state the ability to rebuild older facilities better suited to produce “grads” ready to return to the community and not reoffend.

    It would be an excellent way for both parties to show that rural Minnesota isn’t just an afterthought.

  3. Submitted by Sally Sorensen on 08/20/2016 - 10:05 pm.

    Don Davis reports Gov says no to buying Appleton Prison

    The West Central Tribune has published Don Davis’ report that the governor doesn’t want to buy the prison:

    As a resident of greater Minnesota who has written extensively about the prison, I also found that rumors of negotiations between the state of Minnesota and CCA for the sale of the prison were greatly exaggerated. What’s more, even Rep. Tim Miller stated at a town hall in Minneapolis that if there’s a way to bring down the prison population and not need more beds, he’s 100% for that.

    Here’s my post about the situation:

    And frankly, I’m pretty tired of placebaiting in Minnesota politics. Instead of playing metro v. rural off against each other in order to stoke voters’ emotions, how about policy making that benefits us all?

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