INSIDERS: Private Prison Possibilities

Lake City Youthful Offender Facility
Lake City Youthful Offender Facility
Posted at 12:03 PM, May 16, 2017
and last updated 2017-05-16 09:23:36-04

BAINBRIDGE, Ga. (WTXL)--Big business coming to town, that's what many people want.

In addition to growing the economy, it also means jobs.

However, what if the business was a prison, and what if it were coming to a city a near you?

To the Decatur County Development Authority of Bainbridge/Decatur County, the idea not only sounds good but profitable.

A private prison in Decatur County is an idea that's been floating around for a while but could be getting closer to reality.

To get an idea of what it could potentially be like if a new prison were built in the county, we visited an area, similar in size, with a private prison of its own that been in existence for 20 years.

Lake City is a quaint town with a population of about 12,000 people.

The biggest employer, the Columbia County school system.

Not too far behind is the Lake City Youthful Offender Facility. It ranks among the top 15 major employers with about 240 workers.

"They hire a lot of people, and they're good jobs," said Lake City Mayor Stephen Witt. "The people that I spoke to who work there are pleased with the jobs, satisfied."

According to the Florida Department of Corrections website, it houses 894 offenders ages 19-24.

"They have a culinary school and a G.E.D. program that I've spoke at, so a lot going on out there," said Mayor Witt.

The mayor who's also a lawyer says he has visited many prisons before. Lake City, he says, isn't much different

"You're checked extensively going and coming and all, so it's an eerie feeling to go in to those places, but it's similar to just about every one I've been in," said Mayor Witt.

He says the facility has worked well so far for Lake City. Decatur County is hoping the same can happen for them.

"About five years ago we had a request for proposal go out from private prison which was CCA which was Corrections Corporation of America. It went out and there were 40 acres they were considering 40 different sites," said

Rick McCaskill, the Development Authority of Bainbridge/Decatur County Executive Director.

The Corrections Corporation of America, now known as Corecivc, operates the prison in Lake City. We've reached out to them, and the company hasn't responded about the possibility of one in Bainbridge.

The development authority says in the end the potential to create careers is why they're looking forward to the private prison concept and why it's been on their radar for some time.

McCaskill also says they've got a spot for it right now.

"It'll be adjacent to our airport at our county industrial park, remote site on the other side of the landing strip, so it's an isolated area," said McCaskill.

The Decatur County Prison and the Decatur County Jail are publicly-run, but this would be the first private one.

"I think there's always a controversy between public and private," said Mayor Witt. "There is with schools and governmental that is run privately, and there's issues on both sides of it and I think it just depends on the situation of it."

The Lake City mayor adds the facility has been a steady source of employment for the area.

The development authority says a private prison could create 500 careers.