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CCA drops Ward 8 prison appeal

(Published September 11, 2000)

By OSCAR ABEYTA

Staff Writer

Anti-prison activists in Ward 8 can finally breathe a sigh of relief now that Corrections Corp. of America has given up its appeal of a D.C. Zoning Commission ruling that prevented the company from building a prison at Oxon Cove.

According to Ward 8 activist Eugene Dewitt Kinlow, who spearheaded a grass-roots effort to derail the prison proposal, CCA dropped its appeal the last week of August, effectively ending the companyís effort to build a prison on the Southwest Washington site.

John L. Ray, attorney for CCA, declined comment on the Nashville-based companyís reason for dropping its appeal.

CCA, the nationís largest private prison operator, had proposed building a medium- and maximum-security prison to house the Districtís inmates when the Lorton prison complex closes at the end of next year. Some residents and environmental groups protested the use of that land, which Congress ordered transferred from the National Park Service to CCA.

The prison company, which operates a private prison in Youngstown, Ohio, that currently houses D.C. inmates, first proposed a 2,500-bed prison at the site but after strong community objections the company advanced a 1,200-bed prison instead.

The zoning commission ruled against CCA unanimously June 14 of last year. The company filed for a review in D.C. Court of Appeals Nov. 5, but not before the federal Bureau of Prisons awarded a contract to Wackenhut Corrections Corp. to build a facility in Winton, N.C., to house D.C. prisoners. A second facility to house D.C. inmates is under consideration in Pennsylvania to be built by Cornell Corrections Inc.

Kinlow said he now hopes the community will be able to acquire the land from CCA in order to develop it into "enhanced green space." He cited Wolf Trap Farm Park in McLean as such a project. He said he is exploring different ways of financing the purchase of the land, including conservatorships, national land trusts and public-private partnerships.

"I figure if we can give $3 million to a tennis center in SoutheastÖwe should be able to give that much money for that land," Kinlow said.

He said he is hoping to put together a plan for purchasing the land within a matter of months.

"I donít want to spend the rest of my life on this project," he said. "Iíve already spent three years on this."

The prison controversy erupted after Congress passed the National Capital Revitalization and Self-Government Improvement Act of 1997. As part of the federal bailout plan for the District, the BOP will become responsible for housing the Districtís convicted felons. The closing of the Lorton complex is part of that act.

Copyright © 2001 The Common Denominator