The New York Times
"Eastern Kentucky Needs Flood Relief,
Not Another Federal Prison"
"Tanya Turner, a member of the coalition, said in 2020: “When you are just seeing so intimately every day what your community lacks, it’s hard not to dream about what that much money could do. People talked about rehab facilities, art centers, big maker spaces, all kinds of stuff.”"
WKU | NPR
"There's a new plan for a prison in Letcher County..."
"The region is recovering from a catastrophic flood that upended thousands of lives. Whitaker doesn’t think it’s a coincidence the project was brought back up within two months of the flooding. “It’s sort of scary,” Whitaker said. “They could fast track it right back again, especially with this disaster here getting all of our attention.”"
Public News Service
"KY Rep. Pushes to Fast-Track Federal Prison Project, Despite Local Opposition"
Dr. Artie Ann Bates, a member of the group Concerned Letcher Countians, said the majority of residents do not want another correctional facility, especially one requiring building a new water and sewer treatment plant. She argued residents and small businesses could instead use the funding to jump-start local economies.
"There's absolutely no reason to build another new prison and put it in a super remote area with no infrastructure that currently doesn't have the population to staff it," Bates contended. "And then also, we had this major flood last year, and our county has not recovered from that."
"Appalachia vs. the Carceral State"
"But the fantasy of perpetual economic growth by carceral means was even darker: an ever-expanding penal colony in the southern mountains, where the rural casualties of deindustrialization are put to work imprisoning the urban poor."
Indiana Public Media
"The Prison They Didn't Build"
"...after that mountaintop was removed, life returned to that strange, flat top, and in the decades since, the couple who owned it has gotten creative. They hosted a bluegrass festival. People have gotten married up there. Others hunt for mushrooms and ginseng. One thing that’s not happening in that meadow? There’s no prison getting built."
"We need a well-designed plan to repair or replace our crumbling federal prisons"
"In contrast, Letcher is a rural county with little industry or infrastructure, and most other businesses are fast food restaurants, Dollar Stores, and gas stations. There is virtually no public transportation service, and the nearest commercial airports are located over 100 miles from Whitesburg, the county seat. Hiring and maintaining a professional workforce in this area will be extremely challenging."
The Mountain Eagle
"Is a Federal Prison Really our Best Bet?"
"In Letcher County, people need jobs and rebuilding after the floods, but a prison is more of a curse than a cure...Prison time often worsens the poverty of incarcerated people, especially the many who have lower education and income levels than non-incarcerated people, as their children, mothers, partners lose income and spend money trying to keep in contact. Family connection is the most important factor in reducing recidivism, yet incarcerated people may go years without direct physical contact."
"Building Prisons in Appalachia"
"But, then, in the 2018 Consolidated Appropriations Act passed on March 23, President Donald Trump not only reinstated the full amount but also added an additional $60 million, for a total of $510 million for the prison project. This means USP Letcher will be the most expensive federal prison ever built, surpassing USP Big Sandy, just two counties north of Letcher, whose expense rose significantly when the prison was found to be sinking into the abandoned coal mine beneath it. In short, Congress has just committed half a billion dollars to build a prison that even the Bureau of Prisons does not think is necessary."