After Tuesday’s conversation with VLCIA Executive Director Andrea Schruijer, I went to Thursday’s Industrial Authority board meeting expecting to hear something from the board about the private prison. What I heard:
The only thing a board member said about it was Chairman Roy Copeland reminding me that the board didn’t answer questions in Citizens Wishing to be Heard.
Earlier, Col. Rickets did say that the current contract with CCA for the private prison expires March 13th, and that meanwhile CCA can either request a third extension or CCA could send a Notice to Proceed (NTP) to VLCIA before March 13th. Remember, CCA has, according to the contract, CCA has
“absolute discretion”for issuing that NTP.
Col. Ricketts added that in staff’s discussions with CCA, CCA had indicated they were mulling it over internally, and VLCIA should “stand by” for CCA’s next move.
That’s right, your local Industrial Authority, whose staff and land purchases are funded by your tax dollars, should stand by waiting for a private prison company to tell them what to do.
And the Industrial Authority board’s silence is an answer: they said nothing different from their previous vote for the contract to bring in this private prison; nothing different from their previous acceptance of the first and second option extensions; and nothing in objection to what Col. Ricketts said.
So your tax-supported Industrial Authority wants a private prison in Lowndes County, Georgia.
Do you want that? Do you want a private prison with fewer guards per prisoner than a public prison with higher risks of inmate violence and escapes? Do you want to pay more to lock people up than it would cost to send them to college? Do you want to invest in a private prison when the prison population has peaked and people everywhere are realizing we can’t afford to lock up so many people while cutting education funding? Do you want to end up with an empty white elephant prison plant? Or, worse, do you want yet another prison in Lowndes County, giving us all the image of a prison colony, driving away the kinds of industry we do want? Meanwhile renting out prisoners for practically nothing to compete with local people who need jobs? Do you want that?
If not, all the same contact information for VLCIA still works. I handed over more paper petition signatures yesterday to Andrea Schruijer. Chairman Roy Copeland acknowledged earlier in the day in conversation that he knew more signatures kept coming in, and he got some of the telephone calls.
Keep those calls and signatures and letters going, and maybe the VLCIA board could still change its mind. They’re good at special called meetings, so they could still hold one before March 13th and say they cancel the contract. Or do what they did about the biomass plant, and send a delegation to the contracted company and say they want out. They pretended back then not to care about biomass opposition, but we learned they did. So the more objections from the community, the more likely they will do something.
That plus maybe it’s time to contact CCA directly. We know CCA doesn’t like community opposition and admitted to the SEC that it makes siting a prison difficult.
And remember the Valdosta City Council and the Lowndes County Commission are implicated in this private prison decision just as deep as the Industrial Authority. Remember who let the cat out of the biomass bag: County Commission Chairman Ashley Paulk. Who, by the way, is on the Georgia Board of Corrections, so he has influence on prison issues at the state level.
More about all that in later posts.