WHEELRIGHT — Gov. Matt Bevin and corrections officials announced Friday the state will re-open the old Otter Creek Correctional Center in Floyd County, to house state inmates.

The proposed 10-year lease agreement with CoreCivic, the owner of the private facility, will allow the Department of Corrections to immediately expand capacity while avoiding millions of dollars in long-term capital construction costs. It will also help alleviate the backlog of inmates who are in county jails, awaiting admission to a state prison.

At a press conference on the grounds of the prison in Wheelright, Bevin said the facility will be known as the Southeast State Correctional Complex, and they hope to open it in the first three months of next year.

The facility, built in 1981, has been empty since it closed in 2012, after first Hawaii, then Kentucky pulled its prisoners out of the prison due to a sex scandal that broke in 2009, when female inmates accused prison staff of forcing them to trade sexual favors for privileges.

Thomas Stephens, Secretary of the Personnel Cabinet, said the hiring process begins immediately. “We’re going to be hiring 193 new positions which come with full state benefits. For the correctional officers, the starting salary in those positions is $30,000. There are a lot of other positions there. Administrative positions, human resources, all the way up to deputy warden.”

Department of Corrections Commissioner Kathleen Kenny says she is excited at the re-opening of the facility. “It will bring much needed relief to the overburdened jails, and it will provide the bed space for those who are currently in jail waiting to come into a DOC bed.”

She added, “We know this is just a first step in reducing the backlog and we are continuing to explore other housing alternatives.”

Kenny also said they will offer programs for state inmates that are lacking in local jails where they are housed awaiting space at a state facility. “We plan to have a substance abuse program and other evidence-based programs as well. Additionally, we are going to have some vocational programs like carpentry and other things we hope to bring back to the community.”

She says they will begin by moving DOC inmates into the facility, which will create space at their Roederer Assessment Center. In turn, they will fill those beds with inmates being held at local jails.

Sen. Johnny Ray Turner, D-Prestonsburg, called this welcome news. “Re-opening of this prison is long overdue, and it’s going to be a fantastic thing for us.”

Rep. John Blanton, R-Salyersville, said while this will not solve overcrowding in Kentucky’s prisons, it will help. “We need that, and we need the jobs. We suffered a lot in the downturn of coal in eastern Kentucky, so every job means something to us.”

Terms of the lease have not been announced.

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