Building of prison is good bet

Published 10:27 pm Friday, August 20, 2010

Even though Corrections Corporation of America doesn’t have a bid to build a prison in Bainbridge yet, a company official visiting here Wednesday said it’s a good bet that there will be one.

Jay Hollis, project manager of site acquisition for Corrections Corporation of America (CCA), said the company goes to great lengths to be pre-emptive and be more competitive.

“We don’t go enter into agreements with a lot of different communities just on the outside chance that something will pop up,” Hollis said in an interview with The Post-Searchlight Wednesday. “When we go in sort of pre-emptively to get to this point, it’s because we really believe that we’re going to use that site.”

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Hollis was also a guest of a Bainbridge-Decatur County Development Authority dinner Wednesday evening that included members of the City Council, County Board of Commissioners and Development Authority board members.

“This is a project that came about because we knew, and we continue to know, that there will be demand at the state and federal level,” Hollis said.

In July, the Development Authority agreed to a memorandum of understanding with CCA that the company based in Nashville, Tenn., would submit bids to either state and\ or federal correctional entities that would contract with the company to build a prison on 110 acres at the Decatur County Industrial Park.

He hedged the odds a bit by saying he can’t guarantee that something will be in the works prior to the memorandum of understanding’s time frame, “but we certainly believe that the demand will be there and that we will put this site to good use.”

Decatur County was one of two finalists out of at least 33 prospective sites the CCA looked at in three states for the proposed prison site. The other finalist is Valdosta, Ga.

As it turns out, both Valdosta and Bainbridge are sites that are poised to get a prison. Which site receives a bid for a federal prison and which one gets a bid for a state prison, as well as which prison would be constructed first, is still up in the air, Hollis said.

“We decided, pretty early on that, based on the demand that we believe is upcoming, that we really need two sites, because we can utilize two sites. We expect one to be federal and one to be state. We don’t know what order those will come in,” Hollis said.

By acquiring a potential prison site ahead of when a contract to build one is nailed down, CCA shaves approximately a year off the completion of that facility.

Hollis said when a customer such as the State of Georgia or the Federal Bureau of Prisons reaches the point that they need a new prison, it’s at the point they need it as soon as possible. There’s a 15- to 18-month construction period for a new prison, and if there is another year added to the process of site acquisition, then Hollis said “you’re making it difficult on yourself to be competitive.”

Rick McCaskill, the executive director of the Development Authority, said CCA is the only company that does the site acquisition on the front-end.

“What this partnership does is put us at least a year ahead of where others could be,” Hollis said.

CCA operates nearly 70 facilities, more than 40 of which are company-owned throughout the United States. Four facilities in Georgia are company-owned and operated, and one is CCA-managed.