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Wackenhut gets ‘conditional’ prison nod

Plan puts new facility for D.C. inmates 173 miles away in North Carolina

(Published October 18, 1999)


Staff Writer

Under federal law, D.C. prisoners must be housed within a 350-mile radius of the District. About 1,200 current D.C. prisoners are housed at the Corrections Corp. of America’s prison in Youngstown, Ohio -- 305 miles away. But if Wackenhut Corrections Corp. gets its way, future D.C. inmates may soon be located closer to home.

The Federal Bureau of Prisons on Oct. 8 conditionally accepted Wackenhut’s proposal to build a 1,200-bed prison near Winton, N.C., a town 173 miles from the District. Winton, with a population of only 796, is in a rural area of northeastern North Carolina near the Virginia state line.

"The purpose of the condition is to allow for meaningful public review and comment about the potential environmental impact prior to the Bureau of Prisons making a decision about the awarding of the contract," said bureau spokesman Scott Wolfson.

"We deemed Wackenhut to be the best proposal in terms of its value to the federal government," he said. He declined to discuss further the basis of the government’s decision.

In order for Wackenhut to begin building the prison, the bureau must find that the prison will not significantly affect the environment. The Bureau of Prisons has prepared a draft environmental assessment of the proposal, as required by federal law, which it published Oct. 8. Public comment on the draft will be accepted through Nov. 14.

The government hopes to make a final decision on awarding Wackenhut the contract by the end of December, Wolfson said.

Wackenhut spokesman Pat Cannan said the bureau considered proposals from three or four companies, including Wackenhut. Corrections Corp. of America, which recently lost its bid to zone Ward 8 land to allow prison construction, and Cornell Corrections were known to be among companies competing for the federal contract.

"I think we had the best proposal because of the location," Cannan said.

If Wackenhut eventually gets the formal contract, its North Carolina facility would initially receive 40 to 80 inmates per week after it is built. Under federal law, the Lorton Correctional Facility that currently houses D.C. prisoners in Fairfax County, Va., will shut down by the end of 2001. Wackenhut would receive the remaining prisoners from Lorton.

Wackenhut would provide rehabilitation programs for the inmates along with food service, health care, facility management and security. The Bureau of Prisons would monitor the contract performance.

Wackenhut Corrections, based in Florida, now has contracts to manage 55 prisons in North America, Europe, Australia and Asia with a total of 38,669 beds. The corporation is one of the largest providers of prison services for the federal government and detains inmates for the U.S. Marshal Service at four locations as well as for the Immigration and Naturalization Service and the Bureau of Prisons.

The Federal Bureau of Prisons administers 94 prisons and 117,000 inmates, Wolfson said.

Copyright 1999, The Common Denominator