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Federal gov’t says no to private prison, Decatur Co. project to go unfinished

The U.S. Justice Department announced last week its plans to end use of private prisons, leaving a project at the Decatur County Industrial Park high and dry.

The Bainbridge-Decatur County Industrial Development Authority won a bid in 2010 among 33 other prospective sites to have the Correction Corporation of America build a private prison on 110 acres of land in Decatur County.

A slow project to begin with, plans to build the prison screeched to a halt when the Justice Department made its decision last Thursday.

According to the Washington Post, Deputy Attorney General Sally Yates released a memo that instructs officials to either decline to renew contracts for private prisons when they expire or reduce the scope substantially.

“They simply do not provide the same level of correctional services, programs, and resources; they do not save substantially on costs; and as noted in a recent report by the Department’s Office of Inspector General, they do not maintain the same level of safety and security.”

Bainbridge-Decatur County IDA executive director Rick McCaskill called the decision a “crying shame.”

“I think very much so it is a political decision,” McCaskill said. “It was a very competitive project. We were the one picked. It was a big deal, but unfortunately, it was a big deal that nothing has come out of.”

CCA had already spent more than $100,000 on site testing and engineering for the prison. Up until recently, they were paying $25,000 annually to hold on to the option for the property.

“Fortunately, we don’t have anything hanging on this,” McCaskill said. “We didn’t spend anything on it.”

The site of the prison was to be toward the back end of the Decatur County Industrial Park, where Old Eldorendo Road meets Bethel Road. The project was estimated to cost between $60 million to $150 million and employ up to 500 full-time workers, such as doctors, plumbers, nutritionists and therapists.

CCA is the nation’s largest provider of outsourced corrections. The company is the fourth-largest corrections system in the nation, behind only the federal government and three states.

Representatives from CCA could not be reached by press time.