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States shutter prisons as prison populations fall

December 14, 2016
States are increasingly turning to alternative uses for closed prisons, like the distillery at Brushy Mountain State Penitentiary in Tennessee.

“For more than a century, a maximum-security prison with a capacity to hold 584 inmates loomed in the hills of eastern Tennessee.

When Brushy Mountain State Penitentiary reopens in a few years, it will house a new moonshine distillery and a restaurant. The barbed wire will be gone, replaced by horse trails and campgrounds.

Brushy Mountain is one of nearly 100 prisons states have closed in recent years, as criminal justice reforms across the nation have led to a precipitous drop in inmate populations — and big savings for state budgets already stretched thin.

States held just more than 1.5 million prisoners at the end of 2014, down about 1 percent from the year before. Meanwhile, 39 states have seen declines in the number of prisoners they hold from recent peaks. Four states — New Jersey, New York, Rhode Island and California — have seen prison populations decline by more than 20 percent, according to a new report from the Sentencing Project.”

“Any time there’s serious discussion about closures, there’s oftentimes resistance from the surrounding communities,” said Nicole Porter, who authored the Sentencing Project study. Porter said she hoped the report would give communities new ideas for ways to use shuttered prisons.

Read the full article on The Hill.

 
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