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CCA-Park Service land swap imminent

(Published October 4, 1999)

About 42 acres of waterfront parkland at the southern tip of the District are in line to become the property of Corrections Corp. of America. Although CCA’s bid to have the land zoned for a private prison was unanimously rejected by the D.C. Zoning Commission in June, plans for transferring the land from the National Park Service to CCA — in a ‘land swap’ mandated by the U.S. Congress — have proceeded apace.

"It does not appear that there is anything that would prevent the land exchange from going forward," said David Murphy of the National Park Service. Contamination found on the site to be given to the park service is not serious enough to stop the exchange, he said.

Park service officials have said privately that they do not support giving such a large piece of prime property to a private company but that they are bound by law to carry out the will of Congress.

The land in Prince George’s County, Md., that the park service will receive in exchange for the Oxon Cove parcel is mostly underwater.

Last year, CCA submitted a bid to the Federal Bureau of Prisons to build a 1,20-bed prison on the site, prompting a months-long campaign by area residents to stop the prison. The contract has not yet been awarded but sources say it is unlikely that CCA will win the contract without proper zoning for the site.

Joseph Johnson, a CCA board member and major subcontractor with the firm, said in June that the company could decide to hold on to the land and bid on subsequent prison contracts. Johnson was unavailable for comment at press time.

The land exchange puts no restrictions on how CCA can use the land, although the company would still be bound by federal and local laws, Murphy said.

CCA, the largest private prison company in the nation, operates more than 80 correctional facilities, including a prison in Youngstown, Ohio, that houses about 1,200 D.C. inmates. CCA also operates the Correctional Treatment Facility on Capitol Hill.

Copyright 1999, The Common Denominator