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Kentucky Leases Closed Private Prison to Use as State Facility

Long-time readers of Prison Legal News are undoubtedly familiar with the scandal and corruption surrounding the for-profit private prison firm CCA. An in-depth article concerning CCA’s Otter Creek Correctional Center (OCCC) located in Wheelwright, Kentucky, appeared in PLN’s September 2011 issue.

That article laid bare OCCC’s inadequate medical care, lax oversight and unfettered abuse of prisoners and staff so brutal that one employee pulled a pistol in the warden’s office and shot herself dead. Kentucky and Hawaii finally removed their prisoners from that facility in 2012.

The prison’s reopening in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic was heralded as providing 270 jobs for Floyd County. The state legislature appropriated the needed funds to reopen and operate the prison for only a single fiscal year. Governor Andy Beshear stated the prison’s reopening occurred to ease the state’s overcrowding problems.

Beshear, closely echoing DOC Commissioner Cookie Crews, made many promises to the public; first and foremost was running a coronavirus-free facility, denying the deadly virus entry into SSCC in order for it “to keep our inmates and staff as safe as possible.” Both pledged to observe and implement “guidance from the CDC for Correctional and Detention Facilities” and to train prisoners and staff how to recognize COVID-19 symptoms as well as how to minimize their chances of infection through proper social distancing and hygiene.

The use of face masks for prisoners and staff will be mandatory. In addition, prison medical personnel will be required to wear gloves, gowns and face shields.

Crews went on to add that the prison will offer many types of educational programs, including vocational training such as carpentry. Substance abuse programs and reentry guidance will be available as well. 


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