New Report Shows How States Repurposing Their Closed Prisons: ‘Old Prisons Converted for Community and Commercial Use’

By Mansour Taleb

WASHINGTON, D.C. – “Repurposing Correctional Facilities to Strengthen Communities,” a new report by The Sentencing Project, finds 21 states have “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.”

Nicole D. Porter, Senior Director of Advocacy and the author of the new report, noted, “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 (…)This emerging trend is an exciting advancement and critical next step in building stronger and healthier communities and ending mass incarceration.”

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

Additionally, based on the report, both positive outcomes and challenges faced in accomplishing de-incarceration and community reinvestment goals through the closure and repurposing of correctional facilities are highlighted. 

According to the report, some of the examples of prison reuse projects include Michigan, in which the minimum-security Ojibway Correctional Facility planned reuse for “business redevelopment.”

The report also highlighted how New York and its 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.”

The report also shows that in Tennessee, the Brushy Mountain State Penitentiary, a former maximum-security prison, has been repurposed as a “whisky distillery and campgrounds.”

When it comes to Texas, the report shows that the minimum-security Dawson State Jail is planned to be reused as a “nonprofit office and community space.”

Finally, in Virginia, reports note the maximum-security Lorton Reformatory has been repurposed to a “mixed-use development of housing and retail space.”

According to The Sentencing Project, re-using closed prisons for non-correctional purposes, such as mobilizing political and financial support from federal, state, and local agencies, is strongly encouraged and recommended in order to facilitate prison reuse planning.

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