Bulk of funding approved for $161.2M women-centric corrections facility in North Dakota
Funding for the new women's prison will be available starting July 1, 2023.
BISMARCK — Work will get underway this summer on a new women-centric correctional and rehabilitation facility in North Dakota after state lawmakers approved the bulk of the funding needed to design and build it.
The proposed $161.2 million, 260-bed facility is slated to be built near the Heart River Correctional Center in Mandan. It’s estimated to take three years to complete.
Rep. Jon Nelson, R-Rugby, said approval of the new women’s facility came recently during a conference committee.
Senators were considering bonding for much of the funding but instead opted for a one-time appropriation of $131.2 million from the Strategic Investment and Improvements Fund, or SIIF, money raised in part through oil and gas extraction and production taxes.
“We didn't feel that we needed to bond for this. We could pay cash for it and that was the major change,” Nelson said.
Lawmakers also stated intent to appropriate another $30 million during the next legislative session to complete the facility.
Nelson called approval of the new women’s prison one of the highlights of the session, which is in its final days.
The Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation will have access to the funds starting July 1.
Dave Krabbenhoft, DOCR director, said the women’s facility is in the concept phase right now.
“Excited, anxious, chomping at the bit to get working on this and get an architect and engineer firm hired to start working on the actual design and planning,” Krabbenhoft said.
Currently, most of the state’s female inmates are housed at the Dakota Women’s Correctional and Rehabilitation Center, located in an old Catholic school in New England, 25 miles south of Dickinson, since 2003.
The old school was not meant to be a permanent facility for female inmates, who have fewer vocational and educational opportunities there than male inmates in the state, and limited access to health care, including OB-GYN services.
Gov. Doug Burgum has said the state is at risk for legal action, considering what’s offered at the new penitentiary for men in Bismarck and what’s available for women in New England.
The state had to defend itself in a class-action lawsuit in 2003 claiming unequal treatment of women inmates, until the legal action was dismissed six years later.