The Sentencing Project releases report on repurposing closed prisons

WASHINGTON, D.C. – A new report from The Sentencing Project, “Repurposing Correctional Facilities to Strengthen Communities,” finds 21 states partially closed or fully closed at least one correctional facility since 2000, resulting in a trend of prison repurposing in which old prisons are converted for community and commercial use. 

“Prison closures from New York to Tennessee offer public safety approaches to redirect corrections spending to fully fund crime prevention efforts led by community stakeholders through substantial investments at the local and state level,” said Nicole D. Porter, Senior Director of Advocacy and the author of the new report. "This emerging trend is an exciting advancement and critical next step in building stronger and healthier communities and ending mass incarceration.” 

Prison closures between 2000 and 2022 have reduced correctional capacity in the United States by 81,444 prison beds, according to The Sentencing Project’s analysis of state records.

This report illustrates both positive outcomes and challenges faced in accomplishing decarceration and community reinvestment goals through the closure and repurposing of correctional facilities. Examples of prison reuse projects include: 

Michigan: The minimum-security Ojibway Correctional Facility planned reuse for business redevelopment.

New York: Arthur Kill Correctional Facility, a closed medium-security prison, has been repurposed as a movie and television studio while the minimum- security Mid-Orange Correctional Facility is being reused as a business park.

Tennessee: Brushy Mountain State Penitentiary, a former maximum-security prison, has been repurposed as a whisky distillery and campgrounds.

Texas: The minimum-security Dawson State Jail planned reuse as a nonprofit office and community space.

Virginia: The maximum-security Lorton Reformatory has been repurposed to a mixed-use development of housing and retail space.

The report recommends reusing closed prisons for non correctional purposes, such as mobilizing political and financial support from federal, state, and local agencies to facilitate prison reuse planning. 

 The Sentencing Project promotes effective and humane responses to crime that minimize imprisonment and criminalization of youth and adults by promoting racial, ethnic, economic, and gender justice.

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