HEADLINE: HERTFORD PRISON READY FOR INMATES PRIVATE FACILITY OFFERS WORK FOR ABOUT 300
BYLINE: JEFFREY S. HAMPTON, THE VIRGINIAN-PILOT
The only privately run federal prison in North Carolina is ready for inmates, offering 300 jobs to industry-hungry Hertford County.
Under contract to the Federal Bureau of Prisons, Wackenhut Corrections will operate Rivers Correctional Institution, a $63 million facility on 257 acres just west of Winton. The prison will house 1,200 low-security male inmates, 1,000 less than what was originally planned three years ago, when the project was first proposed to Hertford County officials. Prisoners will arrive within the next 30 days, said Margaret Pearson, spokeswoman for Wackenhut at its Florida headquarters.
Calvin R. Edwards, a 23-year veteran with the Bureau of Prisons, will serve as warden. An open house will be held Sunday.
Prisons run by private companies have come under fire since the trend began nearly 20 years ago. Critics say profits override prison security as companies cut back on staff and safety measures. Bills have been submitted in Congress that would prohibit the government from contracting prisons to private companies. Opposition groups have distributed reports of riots in and escapes from private prisons.
"The people who were opposed remain opposed," said Dr. David Faber, part of a group of residents who opposed the Hertford County Wackenhut prison. "We're hoping and praying things work out the way they say they will."
Supporters say private prisons cost less to build and operate and have security records that match government-run facilities. Most locals welcome the jobs after the loss of 300 jobs from layoffs at the EASCO Aluminum in Winton in January, said Hertford County manager Don Craft.
In October, the North Carolina Department of Corrections took over two private prisons run by Corrections Corporation of America because the company could not meet the requirements of the contract, said Tracey Little, a corrections spokeswoman.
The Department of Corrections had followed a mandate from the General Assembly to contract two prisons to private companies. Corrections Corporation of America later bought out the contract awarded to another private corrections firm. After two years of trying to meet the state's criteria, Corrections Corporation of America agreed to let the state take over operations.
The state leases the two prisons, Pamlico Correctional Institution and Mountainview Correctional Institution, from Corrections Corporation of America.
No other Federal Bureau of Prisons facilities in North Carolina are private. The Federal Bureau of Prisons has contracted only six of its 104 prisons to private companies.
Wackenhut runs 57 prisons or detention centers worldwide.