Lawmakers to address new state prison

LANSING (CAPITOL BUREAU) — A decision on whether to build a new prison in the state is scheduled to go before lawmakers this week.

The proposed project for Lansing Correctional calls for a lease-to-own agreement, which means a private company would build a new prison and the state leases the space, however lawmakers have some concerns.

Inside the walls of the state’s oldest prison is where more than 2,000 prisoners are housed.

“I’ve toured Lansing and it’s obvious something needs to be done, the facility is 150 years old and it looks like it,” said House Majority Leader, Rep. Don Hineman, R-Dighton.

The prison is close to capacity and in bad condition, which is why lawmakers say a new one should be built.

“I don’t agree with a lease agreement, but I do think we need a new prison,” said House Minority Leader, Rep. Jim Ward, D-Wichita.

However, lawmakers aren’t sure if the current proposal by Brownback’s administration is the right one.

The State’s Finance Committee is scheduled to vote on it this week.

“Right now, I plan to vote no,” said State Sen. Anthony Hensley, D-Topeka.

“Whether it’s the right proposal or not, I’m still not sure,” added Hineman.

Under the proposal CoreCivic Inc would design and building a new prison, with the state operating it.

The proposal would also require about 50 percent less staff, and would cost $362 million.

“I’m not sure the new facility would be adequately staffed and that is concerning to me based upon the security and the safety,” explained Hensley.

The Department of Corrections says the money for a new prison was approved in its budget last year.

Governor Brownback was at the prison Tuesday to talk about prison reform, but also talked about why he thought this was a good proposal.

“We need a modernized facility, we need one that is safe for people to work in, and for the inmates to be in,” explained Brownback.

The state’s finance council is scheduled to vote on the proposal Thursday. If the vote is no, it would go to the full legislature for consideration.

The finance council consists of the Governor, House and Senate leaders.

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