Board postpones vote on prison project

Published 11:59 pm Wednesday, November 22, 2006

A Pike County economic development group has postponed a vote on supporting a proposed prison for illegal aliens over concerns that putting the facility in an industrial park would deter other businesses from coming to the area.

Nashville, Tenn.-based Corrections Corp. of America wants to build the 1,500-inmate facility in the Metro-Pike Industrial Park just east of the county airport.

Officials said once the illegal aliens served their time at the proposed prison, they would be deported.

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A similar prison proposal died in 2001 after the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks diverted federal funding.

The board of the Pike County Economic Development District, in putting off the vote on a resolution in support of the latest proposal, said it wanted more time to consider the ramifications of the project.

The board now plans a vote on Dec. 14, after hearing concerns during a public forum set for Thursday.

The prison would cost $80 million and provide 300 jobs, CCA has said. The company has an option on 85 acres in the industrial park.

“I’m convinced, myself, that putting that facility in the industrial park is going to be detrimental to the future development of the park,” board member Bill Voss said. “This is not going to promote additional development.”

Board member Charles Dunagin said there’s more opposition to the prison than officials realize, adding that the proposal is different from the one that received broad public support five years ago.

However, Britt Herrin, executive director of the board, said not supporting the project could cause CCA to look elsewhere.

“CCA is not coming here if they’re not wanted,” he said. “They’re concerned that there’s opposition, but they don’t see that as anything out of the ordinary.”

Herrin said he has spoken to a few people who oppose the project, with most of the opposition coming from residents who live near the proposed site.

CCA is organizing a tour of its prison in Wilkinson County, Herrin said. He added that the company’s prison near a Greenwood industrial park has not hurt business recruiting efforts there.

CCA houses 75,000 inmates in prisons around the nation.