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Representative Jorin Johnson, R-Dis. 41, Fargo, speaks in favor of expanded prison program. (Photo: Lydia Hoverson/The Dakotan)
Representative Jorin Johnson, R-Dis. 41, Fargo, speaks in favor of expanded prison program. (Photo: Lydia Hoverson/The Dakotan)

Prison Product Bill Defeated 

Lydia Hoverson
 January 13, 2023
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Personal Use Sales Fail in North Dakota State House 

lydia.hoverson@mydakotan.com  

BISMARCK – The sales of products built by state prison inmates sold to government agencies attempted to expand Thursday. 

Currently, products made in the prison industry may be sold to government agencies. House Bill 1065 added state employees to the list of potential customers, who would be able to purchase the products for personal use. 

Rough Rider Industries was mentioned on the floor, a program that has been around since 1975, which employs inmates to build furniture that is sold for government buildings. The program teaches skills such as welding, furniture fabrication, and sewing. 

Proponents of the bills said it would be good for inmates, while opponents thought it would be unfair competition to the private sector. 

Representative Jim Kasper, R-Dis. 46, Fargo, after speaking with the owner of Rough Rider Industries, said the bill would probably only allow one or two more employees to the program, as it can already sell to other state entities. 

“What the effect of this bill is, we will have a state owned business competing with privately owned businesses in North Dakota,” said Kasper. “I’d like to offer two definitions. Socialism, an economic and political system under which the means of production are publicly owned. Capitalism, an economic system under which the means of production are privately owned. This is the beginning of an increase of socialistic businesses in the state of North Dakota.” 

“They’re projecting sales of about $34,000,” said Representative Bernie Satrom, R-Dis. 12, Jamestown. “That’s not going to make or break anybody. I think we’re making a big deal out of nothing.” 

Representative Jorin Johnson, R-Dis. 41, Fargo, mentioned products that many Americans buy from China. 

“I get the competition thing, but are we living what we’re preaching here?” said Johnson. “97% of these people are getting out of prison. Only 13% are working with RRI. Makes me mad that the rest of them are sitting watching TV.” 

The bill failed 55 to 38. 

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