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Letter: ND women's prison: There's no need to 'fix' it

To the editor,

I attended the hearing at the state Capitol regarding the proposal to relocate the women's prison in New England to Bismarck.

Several women, mostly former inmates, spoke at length about their perceptions of the shortcomings in the treatment and care provided for them as inmates. I heard very little in their barrage of complaints that would be solved by relocating the facility. No, their complaints were founded on their treatment as inmates in a prison.

I was dumbfounded by the complaints of women who had been sent to that prison two and even three times. My first reaction to that was, "If it is so bad there, why did you continue to do the things that would return you to that facility?"

I remember conversations I had with DWCRC staff members. I'd ask about the number of inmates there. A typical response was something like this: "We're not at full capacity, but winter is coming. We'll be full again. They'll do whatever it takes to get sent back, whether it's just a parole violation or something more serious."

I doubt that administration and staff at any prison would not agree that it would be great if we could do a better job of rehabilitation. When the return of former inmates reaches as high as 50 percent, obviously those lives have not been changed enough to keep them from repeating criminal offenses.

The answer is not in moving the prison to another location. Inmates would still be inmates, and based on what I heard from them in Bismarck that day, I doubt that would change anything for them.

What real benefit would relocating the prison to Bismarck provide? Does it make sense to spend several million dollars doing that? I believe, "If it isn't broke don't fix it." Especially when the "fix" breaks a lot of things.

Lewellyn Rustan

New England, N.D.