East Miss. prison wants to add 500 prisoners

Published 12:21 am Sunday, February 18, 2007

A private prison in East Mississippi that houses inmates with mental disabilities wants to expand by adding 500 new prisoners.

The East Mississippi Correctional Facility, located in the Lost Gap community off Interstate 20 in Lauderdale County, presently has a capacity of 1,000 inmates. The private company that operates it, The Geo Group Inc. of Boca Raton, Fla., wants to house 1,500 prisoners.

The Mississippi House has passed a bill to allow the expansion. The bill is pending in the Senate.

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“It’s an opportunity, an economic development opportunity,” said Jimmie Smith, president of the Lauderdale County Board of Supervisors. “It’s an expansion to the same facility on the same grounds it exists on today. It’s not something somewhere else where it is brand new.”

Smith said he expects the expansion will create around 100 new jobs.

When the facility was built in the late 1990s, it was surrounded in controversy. Those living close by didn’t want it so close to their property. Since then, Smith said the facility has proven to be extremely secure.

Since 2005, several inmates have escaped from the prison, though were later captured.

Alton Wilson lives near the prison and says he wouldn’t mind if it held more prisoners, especially if that created new jobs for the community.

“I haven’t heard anyone complain about it,” Wilson said. “It would bring more jobs and it would put people to work.”