Letter: Setting the facts straight about the DWCRC

Gov. Burgum has proposed to move the female inmates from Dakota Women’s Correctional Rehab Center to the Missouri River Correction Center, a minimum custody facility owned and operated by Department of Corrections. Since the governor’s address, there have been numerous accusations of DWCRC’s inability to meet their contractual obligations with DOCR.

DOCR regularly audits the DWCRC facility operations. Not once has DOCR indicated to DWCRC they are lacking in meeting contractual obligations. The September 2016 DOCR audit report stated, “We provided some suggestions that could improve some of the operations but there were no concerns regarding the safety, security or programming within the facility. They are operating in compliance with the contract and their policies.” Also, “The physical plant creates some difficult challenges but the staff are doing a good job ensuring proper services are provided to the inmate population.” After the most recent DOCR audit in April 2018, DWCRC never received a written report; however, the auditors stated at the audit close there were no conditions set or contract/security/program issues identified.

DOCR has voiced concerns that the female inmate medical needs cannot be met because of DWCRC’s remote location. DWCRC is providing quality medical care through local hospital/clinics and contracting with additional medical support facilities.

Perhaps the most vital concern is that DWCRC is not easily accessible for family visitation. Over 60 percent of the inmates in the last three years have been transferred out of DWCRC into treatment facilities in more centralized locations within 90 days or less, giving many of the female inmates the opportunity to be closer to their families. No matter where female inmates are housed, traveling distance will continue to be a concern for a given number of families.

Spending taxpayer money is a concern. Recent discussions address the use of the current buildings at MRCC is a temporary plan that would require approximately $1.9 million dollars in renovation costs. MRCC does not have an infirmary to address onsite medical needs, nor is it designed to house maximum custody inmates. DOCR indicates they have a 3-5 year plan to build a gender specific campus on the grounds of MRCC for an undetermined amount of money. Furthermore, the temporary housing for minimum security men at JRCC would cost approximately $4.5 million. These are hidden costs that I feel need to be disclosed within this discussion of relocating inmates.

A recent blog written by Forum Communications columnist, Rob Port, stated, “The SMCCC doesn’t want to lose their contract with the state. That contract, signed last year, paid them more than $10 million up front with on-going payments of nearly $450,000 per month in the current biennium.” This statement is clearly not factual. The DWCRC contract with DOCR is a total of $10,761,960 for the entire biennium. That contracted rate is paid to SWMCCC in 24 equal-monthly-installments of $448,415. SWMCCC was not paid $10 million up front in addition to the monthly installments as Port states.