Archive for Thursday, February 7, 2008

Prison could boost economy

February 7, 2008


A federal plan would construct a new medium-security federal prison in Leavenworth, which would operate alongside the existing U.S. Penitentiary, above.

A federal plan would construct a new medium-security federal prison in Leavenworth, which would operate alongside the existing U.S. Penitentiary, above.

— Anticipated construction of a new medium-security federal prison in Leavenworth would be welcome news for the area as the economy continues to slow.

"We're talking millions and millions of dollars in expenditures, in construction," said Charlie Gregor, executive vice president for the Leavenworth-Lansing Area Chamber of Commerce. "This would be for several years, tying up almost all the local contractors with various contracts: concrete, carpenters, wood framing.

"There's so much that goes into this thing. It's not like building a big apartment house."

The project would operate alongside the existing U.S. Penitentiary at Leavenworth, the place built in the early 1900s and that for years operated as a maximum-security prison, holding the likes of George "Machine Gun" Kelly and Robert Stroud, who later would become known as the "Birdman of Alcatraz." Today, it's being used for medium-security inmates.

Project in budget

Planning for the approximately $300 million new prison already is getting a boost. In his proposed federal budget for the 2009 fiscal year, President Bush has included $1.4 million for construction planning, such as conducting research and field tests to ensure that a site near the existing prison would work. The entire process - from planning to completion - could take up to six years, according to the Federal Bureau of Prisons.

Plans call for a new prison big enough for more than 1,100 male inmates, plus 250 employees. Building in Leavenworth - where the Bureau of Prisons has about 1,500 acres of land - would allow the bureau to share costs between two prisons.

Even better, Gregor said, it would give the Leavenworth area more federal employees, which would boost security for families, contractors and businesses who have come to rely on the steadfast economic underpinnings of operations backed by the federal government.

Federal corrections officers earned a starting salary of $28,862 last year.

"These are jobs that are good-paying, solid jobs that have all the best benefits and retirement and all that," Gregor said. "We have over 400 of those now with the federal prison, and we like those."

The U.S. military already is building a new disciplinary barracks at Fort Leavenworth, which will bring another 400 military personnel to town, who will be likely candidates to stay in the area upon leaving the service, Gregor said.

"This will provide a source for talented and trained - by most standards, very, very well trained - military police to man this (new medium-security) institution," Gregor said. "Over time, I think most of the employees will be strictly local."

Widespread benefits

A new federal prison would give the Leavenworth economy and, to a lesser extent, surrounding communities a major infusion of federal funds and the spending they would spur, said Dan Rowe, a principal who leads the justice group for Lawrence-based Treanor Architects. The firm has designed jails in the region, including the Douglas County Jail in southeast Lawrence and a new $60 million addition to an adult detention center in Johnson County.

The anticipated project cost for Leavenworth - $274 million to $298 million, according to the Bureau of Prisons - doesn't include all the spending by contractors who would come to town to eat lunch, stay in hotels, buy materials and complete other transactions that would make a major project even better for the community's bottom line.

"We've seen orders of magnitude two to three times the size of the construction budget," said Rowe, who confirmed that Treanor would be interested in seeking design work on the project. "It wouldn't be unusual for this to have a major impact on the area."

Greg Nook could see why.

Nook, executive vice president for J.E. Dunn in Kansas City, Mo., said that 98 percent of the $297 million construction budget his company had for a new IRS center in Kansas City went to contractors and subcontractors.

At least 90 percent of a prison project's construction value would be expected to go to subcontractors, he said.

"It's at least that much," Nook said.

And don't forget: The federal government - whether it's the IRS, the U.S. military or the U.S. Bureau of Prisons - boasts a strong record of paying its bills, which would be no small matter in times of economic volatility.

"It is a real trustworthy credit client," Nook said.

- Lansing Current editor John Taylor contributed information for this story.


hk45 9 years, 9 months ago

I cannot believe they want to build a prison to bring jobs and $$$ to the State. Oh my, prison pollution is horrible and it is going to destroy everything around it. Study after study have said how bad prison pollution is for the environment so we must fight this!!! Jobs are bad, increasing the tax base is bad, prison pollution is more!!!

oldvet 9 years, 9 months ago

Just outsource the prisoners to Mexico... it would probably cost us about $3 per prisoner per day and Mexico would make a profit on that...

Bill Chapman 9 years, 9 months ago

Back to subject: -Building a new prison would add SERIOUS income to the KC area. After being built, the prison would continue to boost the local economies with the funds from the DOC employees and the prison support industries (food, supplies, etc.).

Sorry about the previous rant, but I get annoyed when thinking about how much public funds are wasted on keeping prisoners alive (and in good health!) while they make no contributions to society.

63BC 9 years, 9 months ago

Kudos to Brownback who announced this last week---appropriations and judiciary committee assignments bring jobs to Kansas.

Richard Heckler 9 years, 9 months ago

Prisoners cost taxpayers between $50,000 - $100,000 per year.

If those kinds of tax dollars are available the government should think about re-opening the Topeka Clinic and creating jobs that pay so folks don't angry then commit crimes plus push more Vo-Tech education = skilled workers which sometimes = owner operator business people

Prisons are NOT bargains for taxpayers. This is absurd.

Bill Chapman 9 years, 9 months ago

In one respect I agree with was_freashpowder, prisons do need more focused rehabilitative aspects - how to accomplish this . . . that is the BIG question. I will always disagree with those who refuse to ignore the cost of life-time imprisonment over the use of a death penalty. Keeping a criminal in prison is a constantly rising cost, the last I remember reading of it was over five years ago and the cost was over $40,000 per inmate, per year. I'm certain it has gone up a great deal. In the case of career criminals (especially the violent ones), this is constant drain on public resources with no return for the cost (other than keeping the convicts from re-entering society). I believe such criminals should be given a set length of time to exonerate themselves, after which the execution of sentence MUST be held within a set period. This is the minimum I could hope for - I would like to see harsher sentences for ALL violent crimes - from misdemeanor to felony counts, as well as using prison work gangs to do pubic work projects as part of their sentence. Many criminals count on the revolving door of prison, it gets them out of most legal obligations and many of the illegal ones too. Currently, while in prison career criminals learn new skills to improve their ability to commit crimes. Many end up joining gangs they never would have had contact with outside of prison, and continue with the gangs projects once they get out.

This needs to be STOPPED!< Harsher punishments and mandatory death sentences would prevent many people from considering to do the crimes connected with the hasher punishments. It may not stop all of the career criminals, but it would give many a second thought before committing such crimes.

akt2 9 years, 9 months ago

I'd rather see the perverts and murderers locked up. There is only so much social services or mental health services can ever do for these deviants. They have no right to walk freely in society. Let the do gooders visit them in prison. They can coddle them there.

jumpin_catfish 9 years, 9 months ago

We need more prisons or less stupid people. If stupid people won't learn then off to prison they should go. Mental health issues may lead a person to commit crimes but it shouldn't excuse them for their behavior (some exception apply). I'm depressed or angry because I'm broke so I robbed a store is an excuse. No one gets their head fixed unless they want to get it fixed, stubborn and stupid people suffer. Sad but true.

Maybe Lawrence should work on getting a prison it sure needs more jobs.

J Good Good 9 years, 9 months ago

No one is born a violent criminal.

There are certainly people who need to be locked away forever (or put to death if you believe in the death penalty).

But how one is raised is NOT irrelevant - humans do not have endless capacity to survive horrendous abuse without emotional damage. This is a fact that any social worker or teacher can validate.

If, as a society, we would pay more attention to the children who are growing up in terrible circumstances we would not have to throw so many lives away. This IS helping people who cannot help themselves.

monkeyspunk 9 years, 9 months ago


You are incorrect. There was crime in Communist Russia and the Eastern Bloc nations. There was less because of how harshly criminals were treated. Prisons there make our worst look like Hollywood rehab clinics. Communist countries were much more susceptible to shortages than market countries are because of strict production guidelines. Those countries were ruled by absolute fear of the state. You want that in the US I think. You think people never went hungry in Communist Russia?

We have more people in prison on drug related offenses than all of Western Europe does for ALL charges combined.

Want to fix the prison system? Fix the laws.

Kathy Theis-Getto 9 years, 9 months ago

Build prisons or fund the schools - the choice is ours.

J Good Good 9 years, 9 months ago

Yeah, I mean why don't those kids living with abusive parents who rape them and throw them out on the street like trash just pick themselves up by their bootstraps and not develop anger issues. Very helpful attitude.....

nrvana8775 9 years, 9 months ago

"The prisons is big business, and you're slave labor" - Immortal Technique.

oldvet 9 years, 9 months ago

NavyVet, you must have been a corpsman or an aviator, because I like your thinking and those two mos' are the only ones we Marines like... the aviators because they come in low and slow and put ordnance exactly where we need it, they understand the "close" in close-air-support, and the corpsmen because they wade into the thick of it with us and save Marine's lives... Thanks for all your previous service and support...

Semper Fi

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