Federal prison coming to Letcher County

Published: Feb. 24, 2016 at 9:29 PM EST
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Letcher County will soon be home to a federal prison.

Wednesday, Attorney General, Loretta Lynch confirmed the Bureau of Prisons will construct a federal prison that will house 1,088 inmates.

Her comments came during a budget hearing for the U.S. Department of Justice. Nearly 450-million dollars in federal funding will be used for the prison. Congressman Hal Rogers says the facility will provide hundreds of jobs.

“This facility will provide hundreds of good paying, full-time jobs as our region struggles to rebound from the devastating loss of more than 10,000 coal mining jobs over the last eight years,” Rogers said.

“It’s also a testament to the perseverance and hard work of the Letcher County Planning Commission that has worked diligently to bring a federal prison to Letcher County.

With the loss of thousands of coal jobs, hearing a federal prison could bring hundreds of new jobs is great news for many.

"Every bit of that excites us of course. We're looking for the jobs that it might provide to people in this area. Also, the impact on the economy as they buy things, contract for things, that's going to make a difference also," said Elwood Cornett, co-chair for the Letcher County Planning Commission.

For the better part of a decade, the Letcher County Planning Commission worked to bring another federal prison to the mountains.

Although the prison will employ around three-hundred people, some in the community worry the folks they hire will not be from the area.

"There's housing and there's more commerce and that's going to be good for the community but often times what we've seen is that what's promised and what's delivered is slightly different," added Dee Davis, the President of the Center for Rural Strategies.

Even Governor Matt Bevin voiced his concern about federal prisons at a recent town hall meeting, in Hazard, when talking about his hometown.

"The quality of life began to go down and the caliber of resident and the level of commitment people had and the number of people who really had roots in the community began to change," Governor Matt Bevin said.

Regardless of their concerns, it's only a matter of time before inmates are booked in Roxana, Kentucky.

"We're looking for the time to start when we can hear dirt being moved and hammers ringing and people having a job of course," Cornett adds.

A 700-acre site in Roxana was selected for the prison. Rogers says the design, water and sewer phase of the project should move forward this spring.