Fayette County, Pennsylvania’s planned second state prison is being heralded as a critical project with the potential to secure a struggling municipality’s economic future, reports the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review. State lawmakers and local elected officials predict the $200 million, 2,000-bed facility will create more than 600 jobs — and untold economic opportunities — by the time of its projected opening four years from now. The new prison, announced last week, is one of two planned by the state to ease rapid overpopulation in existing facilities. Prisons have become a growth industry in rural America, where communities suffering from decades of decline in farming, mining, and manufacturing jobs are grateful for solid employment opportunities. Critics contend that prisons strain aging water, sewage, and highway systems; burden local police and courts; and fail to stimulate new business and housing ventures.
Pennsylvania’s two proposed prisons — its 27th and 28th — are the state’s latest ripple on a national tidal wave of expansion that began in the early 1990s after mandatory sentencing laws sent inmate populations skyrocketing. Pennsylvania’s prison population — nearly 47,000 — has increased by almost 40,000 since 1980. Corrections Secretary Jeffrey Beard said proposed legislative initiatives may slow the influx of inmates, but he expects the population will grow.