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WDAY: The News Leader

Published September 04, 2013, 08:29 PM

State prisoners building houses in Minnesota

Fargo, ND (WDAY TV) - The cities of Perham and Breckenridge have turned to a surprising building partner as part of housing projects; an experienced work crew that sleeps in a state corrections facility at night, but pounds nails by day.

By: Kevin Wallevand, WDAY

Fargo, ND (WDAY TV) - The cities of Perham and Breckenridge have turned to a surprising building partner as part of housing projects; an experienced work crew that sleeps in a state corrections facility at night, but pounds nails by day.

After building 120 homes the last few years, the Institutional Community Work Crew has home building down to a science. The faces of the work force change, and that is good. That's because the workers from Alexandria, Minnesota are actually serving time for the state of Minnesota, most for drug offenses or property crimes. After serving a good chunk of their sentence in prison, they have the chance to make this home building crew.

Michael Nguyen: “It is not just work that I’m learning, but this is a life changing experience for me.”

Nguyen will get out of prison next year. The former drug seller has been transformed by this work detail.

Michael Nguyen: “I am blessed to be here and I thank God for that.”

The Port Authority in the city of Breckenridge contracted with the West Central Minnesota Communities Action, who in turn uses this prison crew to build affordable homes for cities trying to meet the demand for more housing--

Kristin Nicholson – Breckenridge City Clerk: “We kind of wanted to find somebody to partner with someone to get these affordable housing available.”

--while taking these inmates out of the prison setting.

John Eggert – West Central Minnesota Communities Action: “Get gainful employment and not re-offend and I have heard it figures of upwards of 20 to 50 thousand dollars a year to keep a state prison mate incarcerated, and if we have them all working and producing to society, great. That’s the ultimate goald of the program.”

And the success stories here are many. Some of the inmates, once they finish their sentence, leave the work crew and the jail and go on to work for construction companies some of them forming their own business.

One thing is for sure...it beats sitting in prison. And most of them leave here qualified to work on a home building crew somewhere else.

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