EL DORADO Impending budget cuts have prompted the Kansas Department of Corrections to consider closing two minimum-security prisons in El Dorado, although no final decision has been made.
“Every aspect of our operation is under review for potential reductions or eliminations in funding” because of state revenue shortfalls, department spokesman Bill Miskell said last week.
The Corrections Department is trying to find ways to cut more than $5 million this fiscal year and more than $13 million for the fiscal year that starts July 1.
“We have in the past discussed the possibility of closing several of those minimum-security satellite units at El Dorado, at Lansing and at Norton in Stockton,” Miskell said.
The department recently said that it is ending contracts for its day reporting centers in Wichita and Topeka and for the women’s camp in Labette County. Inmates at the day reporting centers will remain on parole.
The two minimum-security facilities in El Dorado employ 37 people and any cuts or closings would also cost the town hundreds of volunteer hours from inmates, El Dorado officials said.
The maximum-security unit at El Dorado Correctional Facility, where inmates such as BTK serial killer Dennis Rader are housed, has not been discussed as a closure target.
“This is all budget,” Miskell said. “We have got to go through and review everything we are doing to determine what kinds of cuts we can make that will have a minimum negative impact on public safety and on other aspects of department operation.”
David Alfaro, director of economic development for Butler County, said any cuts to the minimum-security prisons would hurt. Besides providing jobs, the facilities buy supplies from El Dorado and Butler County businesses.
“It would make a big impact on us,” Alfaro said.
The inmates’ volunteer work also would be missed, said Linda Jolly, executive director of El Dorado Inc., a nonprofit economic development organization that works with the city.
One of the units held 93 inmates Thursday and the other unit held 68.