Prison Closings Could Kill Small Towns Like Boydton, Virginia


As Boydton, Va., prepared for its 200th anniversary in February, it was blindsided by news the the state planned to close its Mecklenburg prison there, which houses about 730 inmates. The Washington Post says Boydton will lose 20 percent of its budget — revenue that comes from providing sewer services to the prison — and 300 jobs. Officials may have to lay off most of the town's workers, including its only police officer; triple some water rates; and cut back on trash pickups.

More than $1.5 million in grants are in jeopardy. If the town does not get help from the state, it could go bankrupt and be dissolved. Boydton's bicentennial could turn into its wake. The story of Boydton is playing out in small towns across Virginia and around the nation. Many depressed rural communities welcomed prisons as sources of jobs and revenue. Budget woes and moves to jail fewer nonviolent offenders are leading states to mothball dozens of correctional facilities — an unexpected blow for communities already suffering from the recession. At least 13 states closed prisons in 2010.

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