Marion Adjustment Center’s closing will impact community in many ways

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By Stephen Lega

What happened? Kentucky Justice and Public Safety Cabinet announced June 25 that it would not enter into a new contract with Marion Adjustment Center. Prison officials hope the state will reverse its decision to end the contract.


Before Marion Adjustment Center opened more than 30 years ago, Marion County was divided over whether it should be allowed to operate here.

After a surprise decision last week, the private prison in St. Mary is now fighting to survive.

Kentucky Justice and Public Safety Cabinet Secretary J. Michael Brown announced June 25 that the state would not be renewing its contract with Marion Adjustment Center, and when that contract expired (June 30), the state would work to transfer the approximately 800 prisoners at the prison to other facilities within 120 days.

Jennifer Brislin, Justice Cabinet communications director, explained that Kentucky officials realized they had the space to house all state prisoners in facilities operated by the Kentucky Department of Corrections, county jails and half-way houses.

“Over the last five years there’s been a concerted effort ... to reduce the prison population,” Brislin said.

On Friday, the state and Corrections Corporation of America (MAC’s parent company) signed a 30-day extension of their contract. Nevertheless, as of press time, the state still planned to sever its ties with the prison.

The June 25 announcement was a shock to CCA and MAC employees. MAC Warden David Akers said until that moment, they had been expecting to sign a contract renewal for two years with the option of two additional two-year extensions.

“It was disheartening for me and my staff,” Akers said.

Despite their disappointment, CCA officials indicated they weren’t ready to just roll over.

“It’s news that we’re not yet ready to accept,” said Steven Conry, CCA vice president for facility operations, business unit 3, during a community meeting June 26 at Henning’s Restaurant.

Like Akers, Conry said CCA thought its negotiations with the state were going well until they received a call from Justice Cabinet officials informing them that their contract would not be renewed, just a few hours before the news was announced statewide.

Conry said they asked the state if they could have 24-hour reprieve to break the news to the prison’s 166 employees. Instead, he said they were told the announcement would become public that afternoon.

According to Brislin, this was not an easy decision for state officials.

“They’re very cognizant of the fact that this is a corporation in a community that could potentially impact a lot of people,” she said.


Cost savings

CCA officials have praised MAC, noting that the prison has received perfect scores on its last five accreditation audits by the American Correctional Association. Audits are conducted every three years, and they include reviews of records, site visits and interviews with staff and prisoners.

State officials also said MAC has been a great partner over the last three decades.

“The staff has been great. The programs have been great,” Brislin said. “This wasn’t a reflection on the facility at all. This is simply a capacity issue.”

In its official announcement, the Justice Cabinet said the reduction in the prison population was the result of changes implemented under House Bill 463, which was passed and signed into law in 2011.

The law includes provisions allowing early release for some prisoners and changing the sentencing guidelines on certain non-violent offenses.

Since November, the state prison population has declined from around 22,100 inmates to just under 20,600 inmates.

Kentucky has 74 county jails and four regional jails. Several of those facilities are full or over capacity, according to the most recent DOC statistics (from June 27).

However, jails statewide had 2,462 empty beds.

By comparison, as of July 1, 807 prisoners were being housed at Marion Adjustment Center.

According to the Justice Cabinet, the state will save between $1.5 and $2.5 million by moving inmates out of MAC.

Prison officials have disputed those claims of cost savings, however.

According to information on the DOC website, the state is paying MAC $37.99 per day for each minimum security prisoner and $47.98 per day for each medium security prisoner.

The state pays county jails $31.34 per day for each state prisoner. However, the state pays a higher per diem of $40.34 to county jails for prisoners in substance abuse programs.

MAC does not receive an additional per diem for inmates in substance abuse programs or any of the other programs offered at the prison.

Using the higher per diem that MAC receives to house medium security prisoners, the cost is still lower than 10 of the 12 DOC facilities.

The state pays $39.55 per day for each inmate at Bell County Forestry Camp and $44.96 for prisoners at Eastern Kentucky Correctional Complex. The cost to house inmates at the remaining DOC facilities ranges from $50.53 per day at Little Sandy Correctional Complex to $82.16 per day at Northpoint Training Center.


County budgets

Marion County Detention Center (the Marion County jail) required just $80,000 from the fiscal court during the 2012-13 fiscal year, but MCDC is unusual in that regard. According to Marion County Judge/Executive John G. Mattingly, most county jails lose between $500,000 and $1 million, annually.

Those losses are covered by their county governments.

Because of the state’s effort to reduce its number of prisoners, many county jails have lost revenue as well. As a result, county officials in many communities have lobbied the state to send more prisoners their way, according to Brislin.

“That’s been an ongoing conversation for several years,” she said.

By closing MAC and scattering its approximately 800 inmates throughout the state, county jails will get more state prisoners, and many counties will receive a boost in revenue.

“That may impact their budgets,” Brislin said.

Likewise, State Senator Jimmy Higdon and State Representative Terry Mills both indicated they heard in committee meetings and from other sources that many people across Kentucky are in favor of ending the state’s contract with MAC.

“I don’t see a lot of support for private prisons outside of Marion County,” Higdon said.



Local impact

Without question, losing MAC will have a tremendous impact on the community.

During the 10 months between August of 2012 and May of 2013, MAC spent nearly $1.77 million with Marion County businesses (including $32,496.89 for advertising with the Lebanon Enterprise).

Marion County Water District Superintendent Jimmy Mudd said MAC provided more than $132,000 in revenue for the water district in the past 12 months.

MAC invested $250,000 to help start the Loretto sewer project, and MAC pays between $18,000 and $21,500 per month for sewer service.

The annual payroll at MAC is close to $5.27 million, which means approximately $52,700 in occupational tax revenue for the Marion County Fiscal Court.

“It’s not just about tax revenue for the county,” Marion County Judge Executive John G. Mattingly. “It’s about local families.”


Cost to incarcerate

This chart compares the cost to the state to house each inmate each day at various correctional facilities throughout the state. Halfway houses, county jails and Marion Adjustment Center each receive a per diem from the state. For Department of Corrections facilities, the cost per day is the average the state pays to house inmates in its own facilities. All the information in this chart come from the DOC website.

FacilityCost per inmate per day

Halfway houses (male)            $31.61

Halfway houses (female)             $32.64

County jails            $31.34

Marion Adjustment Center (minimum            $37.99

Bell County Forestry Camp            $39.55

County jails with SAP *            $40.34

Eastern Kentucky Correctional Complex             $44.96

Marion Adjustment Center (medium)            $47.98

Little Sandy Correctional Complex            $50.53

Roederer Correctional Complex            $51.31

Green River Correctional Complex            $51.32

Luther Luckett Correctional Complex            $51.52

Blackburn Correctional Complex            $52.94

Western Kentucky Correctional Complex            $67.15

Ky. State Penitentiary                                  $73.14

Ky. Correctional Institute for Women            $76.07

Ky. State Reformatory            $81.02

Northpoint Training Center  $82.16