Taking No Prisoners

Taking No Prisoners

The Bonne Terre prison an hour outside of St. Louis, Missouri,
has maintained a spotless record, reports St. Louis’
Riverfront Times, but its not because of cutting-edge
technology or prison reforms. It’s because the 210-acre facility,
completed last summer for $105 million, is empty.

Construction of the prison was scheduled to start six years ago,
when there was a demand for bigger facilities due to an increase in
inmates. Protests and lawsuits slowed the project, resulting in the
facility being finished later than expected. By then, the state had
already chosen a smaller prison to be opened to alleviate
overcrowding.

Officials from Missouri’s Department of Corrections say there is
not enough money to open the facility, which would require $39
million for start-up costs. While the state legislature has been
unable to find money in the budget to open the prison, the state is
still paying for the finished facility. Lease payments total $168
million over the next 20 years, reports Ray Hartman, and the
citizens of the town of Bonne Terre (population 4,000) are paying
for it as well.

Anticipating an economic boom, including more than 800 new prison
jobs, Bonne Terre taxpayers spent some $14 million in civic
improvements. Now the town is struggling to make ends meet. Bonne
Terre Mayor Sue Wilke is worried about the future of the town. ‘I
truly do not know how Bonne Terre will survive,’ she says.
–Kate Garsombke
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