Leavenworth The Leavenworth-Lansing area welcomed its sixth correctional facility Friday morning, only this center isn't like the others.
The Corrections Corporation of America Leavenworth Detention Center, scheduled to begin housing prisoners Tuesday, is the first privately operated maximum security prison in the country, and it is the first prison the U.S. Marshals Service has privately contracted.
CCA Chairman Tom Beasley conducted the dedication ceremony in front of a crowd of a few hundred area citizens, law enforcement officials and politicians.
"This is the most experienced prison community we've ever been in," Beasley said. "A community that understands the industry as well as you do is a good place."
The Leavenworth-Lansing area has five other correctional facilities housing military, state and federal inmates.
Local politicians praised CCA's efforts and spoke of the benefits the 256-bed center will have for the area.
"THE PEOPLE of Leavenworth and Lansing should be proud," said Rep. Clyde Graeber, R-Leavenworth. CCA has hired more than 108 local employees to staff its new facility, Graeber said.
Not only will the detention center bring more jobs to the area, but the U.S. Marshals Service also hopes the center will help alleviate problems of overcrowding in jails.
Overcrowding is the "most critical problem of the Marshal Service," said Mike Brasel, chief transportation officer of the U.S. Marshals Service in Kansas City area.
The facility is designed to handle "high profile" male and female federal prisoners who are awaiting trial, hearing or sentencing and need a place to stay for anywhere from one night to several months, Beasley said. The government will be charged $99 a day for each inmate housed in the facility.
THE DETENTION center, which cost $12.3 million, is near other facilities and federal courts, Brasel said. "Housing prisoners in remote facilities costs time and money," he said. "But the safety risks and stress of transportating prisoners long distances cannot be measured in dollars."
But Beasley predicted taxpayers will save money with a facility like the Leavenworth center in place.
"We take the long-term view and run it like a business," Beasley said. CCA, which is based in Nashville, Tenn., currently operates 20 other correctional facilities, including jails, processing centers and juvenile schools in New Mexico, Texas, Tennessee, Florida and Australia with plans for many more to open in the future.
The Leavenworth facility has the ability to expand to 440 beds and Beasley already has plans to do so, he said.
Dean McConnell, an Ozawkie resident who toured the facility Friday, said he, too, expects it to grow.
"I really think this will work," McConnell said. "It will probably be twice this big."