Ky. may temporarily reopen private prisons amid overcrowding


LOUISVILLE (AP) — Kentucky Justice and Public Safety Cabinet Secretary John Tilley is considering temporarily reopening two private prisons to ease overcrowding.

The Courier-Journal reports Kentucky stopped housing inmates in private prisons in 2013, but recent unexpected growth in the number of prisoners has left both state prisons and county jails at capacity.

Over 11,000 of Kentucky’s roughly 23,600 state inmates are currently being held in county jails, and Tilley said many jailers can’t handle any more.

The idea of reopening the Marion Adjustment Center in St. Mary and the Lee Adjustment Center in Beattyville seems like the only viable option in the short term, he said. The two facilities could handle about 1,642 inmates.

“This doesn’t represent a change in philosophy,” he said. “This is simply a pragmatic approach to a problem of capacity that we have at the moment.”

The two prisons are owned by the Nashville-based Corrections Corporation of America. They are closed but still being maintained. CCA spokesman Jonathan Burns said in an email that the company would be willing to reopen them.

A third CCA facility, the Otter Creek Correctional Center, in Wheelwright, is not being considered for reopening. It closed in 2012 amid reports of sexual abuse.

Tilley said the state’s top priority would be accountability if the other private prisons are reopened.

“We’ll do everything in our power to avoid any of those problems that have existed in the past,” he said.

The idea is still under review, but Tilley said the executive branch has the authority to authorize it.

The factors behind Kentucky’s increasing prison population include high numbers of drug-related arrests and parole violations and a high percentage of felony offenders who are getting prison time, Tilley said. Those same things contributed to the state’s spike in inmates back in the 2000s.

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