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Weekly Address — October 17, 2019

From the historic hallways of the most beautiful state Capitol in our great nation, this is Senator Keith Ingram.

The state Board of Correction is exploring the possibility of opening a privately-operated prison in southeast Arkansas.

The idea was approved at the most recent meeting of the board. State prisons would guarantee that 500 inmates would be housed in the private unit for 20 years. It also would house prisoners from cities and counties in the region.

The new facility would be built by a Louisiana company known as LaSalle, which also operates the Bowie County jail in Texarkana, Texas. Arkansas has a contract for up to 300 inmates to be housed in Texarkana.

Private prisons can house inmates more cheaply than state-run prisons, which is why the Board of Correction is interested in signing a 20-year contract.

However, state-run prisons offer vo-tech classes and adult education, in order to prepare inmates for life in the outside world. A privately-operated prison would be expected to offer similar programs.

If the contract is finalized, it would mark the second time that Arkansas has experimented with privately-operated prisons. For about three-and-a-half years in the late 1990s, a private firm operated two units near Newport, Arkansas.

The Grimes Unit housed young male offenders and the McPherson Unit housed females. Both units had 600 beds and both opened in 1998.

However, in 2001 the state resumed control over the two units, after the private company decided against renewing its contract.

From the Capitol, it is always my greatest honor and most sincere privilege to serve you as your state Senator. This is Keith Ingram.


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