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Prison opens in Uniontown

The city of Uniontown welcomed a new enterprise Wednesday, one which is likely to employee more than 100 Perry County residents, but it wasn’t the sort of commercial site where officials and dignitaries usually hold ribbon-cutting ceremonies.

This ribbon-cutting took place in the shadow of walls, watchtowers and razor-wire, as Black Belt officials celebrated the completion of the Perry County Correctional and Rehabilitation Center. Louisiana-based LCS Corrections, a private prison operator that houses a number of female Alabama inmates at the South Louisiana Correctional Center in Basil, La., will administer the facility.

State Sen. Bobby Singleton, who helped attract LCS to Perry County three years ago as a state representative, said the city, county and surrounding area should be proud of the facility.

“We’re never proud to be incarcerating someone, ” Singleton said, “however, I feel we’ve partnered with good corporate citizen, on that’s looking toward rehabilitation and other positive programs in their facility.”

Singleton, Sen. Hank Sanders and members of the Perry County Commission extolled the economic value of the correctional facility Wednesday.

Singleton said the 700-bed prison would employ around 168 people when it’s fully staffed. The total payroll, he said, could top $2.5 million. Negotiations are underway to see where the prison’s inmates will come from.

“This facility promises to be an economic engine for the community,” he said.

William Bateman, warden of the facility, said the type of inmates housed in Uniontown will depend on the states that contract with LCS to incarcerate their lawbreakers.

“The security level will reflect the duration of the inmates term, the offense they committed, and their conduct,” Bateman, who has managed prisons across the southeast, said, adding that the Perry County Correctional Center’s official designation is minimum- to maximum security.

Bateman already has more than 90 employees on his staff. A second class of guards is scheduled to graduate from training by the Alabama Department of Corrections this week, he added.

Many Uniontown citizens have been fighting the prison’s opening for more than three years, since the Perry County Commission incorporated Perry Detention Services to negotiate with LCS.

“We have enough problems as it is without bringing prisoners into our community,” Robert James Johnson, a member of Concerned Citizens of Perry County, said.

But that’s not really an informed complaint, Singleton said.

“If you look around in our towns and cities, they use inmates everyday from the State Cattle Ranch to clean our streets,” he said. “And they’ve never had any incidents.”

Plus, he added, Uniontown is unlikely to be a place an escaped prisoner would want to hang around for very long.

“Usually, I would think, if you escape from prison, you don’t want to stay in a small town anyway,” he said. “Everybody knows everybody, so they’re going to recognize an unfamiliar face.”

Though its one of the chief concerns he hears from the community, Bateman said prisoner escapes are a minor concern, because of the money LCS is able to spend on state of the art security systems.

“We’ve got razor-wire and a stun-fence that’s already hot,” he said. “It’ll bit you pretty bad if you touch it.”

According to its Web site, LCS provides complete staffing and management of correctional facilities, with a full range of services, including facility administration, security, food service, inmate programs, inmate health care, and all other services required to operate a facility.

“Our experienced staff includes experts in facility development, financing, prison design, construction, prison administration, security, health services, education, vocational training and food services,” the Web site reads.