City Tries To Save Local Prison

By: Jennifer Bocchieri Email
By: Jennifer Bocchieri Email

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El Dorado community leaders are banding together to brainstorm ways to save the local prison. The city's minimum security prison is on the chopping block as the state is forced to make millions of dollars in corrections cuts. The El Dorado Correctional Facility North Unit minimum security prison is set to close by July 1st.

"It would be a tremendous impact on the community of El Dorado should we lose this facility," said State Representative John Grange.

That's because the inmates at the facility are used as free labor, saving everyone from the state park to the school system millions of dollars every year.

Grange called a meeting Thursday night to strategize and come up with a list of just how important the inmate's work is so he can convince the head of corrections to keep the facility open.

"Most important to the El Dorado State Park in 2008 there was 28,869 man hours by the correctional facility. That equates to 14 people working eight hours a day for one year," said a park supporter.

"Just the other day, when we had a storm, it actually looked like a bomb went off in Walnut River Park and the inmates were essential to helping us clean that up," said the park's ranger. "We'd still be doing that today."

Those at the meeting know the Department of Corrections is in a bind. It already had to make $17 million in cuts. Another $6 million has just been added on top of that. Closing the facility would save just over a million dollars.

The state says it's a done deal. But those in El Dorado think they still have a chance to stop it from happening if the state will only listen.

"At least we're going to let everybody at the state understand our feeling about the impact this would cause on the community," said Grange.

Grange should know the verdict in the next couple of days.


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