Thursday, November 03, 2016

Closed prisons being sold or leased for new uses

Closed Joliet (Ill.) Correctional Center (AP)
Many of the 150 state prisons that closed during the Great Recession "are increasingly taking on new life," Jen Fifield reports for Stateline. "In some instances, states are selling, transferring or leasing the properties to businesses or nonprofits."

"Prisons can be a hard sell," Fifield writes. "Many are in small towns or rural areas, where it can be difficult to attract businesses and local governments may have less interest in purchasing new property. The prisons often have unusual features, such as artillery ranges and commercial kitchens, which potential buyers may not need. In the towns where prisons have been shuttered, jobs have been lost and revenue from taxes and fees has declined. The high cost of maintaining and securing the properties adds to the urgency to unload the empty facilities."

In Wagram, N.C., the Growing Change non profit is converting a former prison "into a sustainable farm and education center to be used for programs for troubled teens," Fifield writes. Noran Sanford's plan calls for the campus to be open to the community in other ways; veterans are to live in old staff housing, "and the guard tower will be a rock climbing wall. Sanford hopes his model can be replicated across the country, and he is working on a toolkit for local governments that want to use vacant prisons." He told Fifield, “I’m asking us to look larger than criminal justice,” he said, “to utilize closed prisons to advance social goals.”

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