Borough Assembly chooses prison partner

Posted: Monday, February 26, 2001

SOLDOTNA (AP) -- The Kenai Peninsula Borough Assembly has chosen a partner to help with the planning, design and construction of a private prison.

The assembly on Friday in an executive session picked a joint venture led by Cornell Corrections to help the borough secure a state contract for the 800 to 1,000-bed prison.

Assembly member Jack Brown moved to select Cornell Companies, Inc., the lead company of the Corrections Group North team.

''I believe Cornell came up with a well-defined legislative strategy,'' said Brown. ''They did extensive research of the site of the correctional facility. (I was) extremely impressed with their local emphasis on employee development and recruitment.''

Cornell is part of a team that includes Kenai Natives Association, which first sparked interest in a prison on its land next to the state-run Wildwood Correctional Facility north of Kenai.

Cornell and another group, Management & Training Corp., gave one-hour presentations to the assembly. A review panel had scored Cornell a hair lower than a joint venture led by Management & Training. The panel had graded four potential prison operators based on their financial backing, willingness to hire and set up offices locally, experience and ability to lobby lawmakers.

The borough administration and assembly is hoping Cornell can persuade lawmakers, the Knowles administration and the Department of Corrections to place the prison on the Kenai Peninsula.

Borough Mayor Dale Bagley said the next steps involve negotiating a contract for assembly approval and preparing legislation to gain approval for the peninsula project at the state level.

Previous actions passed by the Alaska Legislature opened the door for construction of a private prison at Ft. Greely near Delta Junction. However, a number of roadblocks, including two lawsuits, have brought that project to a near standstill.

Margaret Pugh, commissioner for the Alaska Department of Corrections, said building the prison on the peninsula requires additional legislation to either redirect the already-approved project to this area or to authorize construction of a second facility to house Alaska's inmate population.

A shortage of in-state prison space is to blame for some 800 inmates currently housed in a Corrections Corporation of America facility in Arizona.

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