A growing prison population, reinforced by drug offenders and minimum mandatory sentences, has North Dakota leaders debating where to invest taxpayer dollars, the Fargo Forum reports. “Society continues to insist that the bad guys be locked up,” said Ray Homberg, chairman of the Senate Appropriations Committee. Sen. Tim Mathern wants a shift in public policy, with more money devoted to prevention and treatment. “We're spending millions and millions more each year on a dead-end street,” said Mathern. “Every million we spend on corrections is a million dollars less that we spend on education for our children.”
The Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation, with Gov. John Hoeven's blessing, favors a plan that replaces a 99-year-old cell house, adds 350 prison beds and possibly expanding treatment programs. The Pew Charitable Trusts predicts North Dakota will need 1,580 prison beds in another five years. North Dakota's prison growth has slowed to 2 percent to 3 percent per year. At the turn of the decade, the state saw double-digit increases, among the highest growth percentages in the nation.