With two weeks to go in the legislative session, Alaska lawmakers are calling for a feasibility study of two future mega-prisons, one private and the other run by the state, reports the Anchorage Daily News. The city of Whittier has been pushing to build a prison with Cornell Companies, a Texas-based prison operator. It would be Alaska’s first private prison and twice the size of any facility in the state.
Cornell officials argue they could operate a big prison more cheaply than could the state. Gov. Frank Murkowski opposes the idea. A bill now being considered calls for construction of a prison with 1,200 to 2,251 beds, primarily to house Alaska inmates now shipped to prison in the Lower 48. The bill says Whittier’s proposal would have to win state acceptance by July 2006.
Currently, 705 Alaska inmates are housed in the Lower 48, at an annual cost of about $14 million. Many legislators say it’s important to bring the money and prison jobs home. They also say the prisoners stand a better chance of rehabilitation if they serve their sentences closer to families and their communities.