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Rural Ky. Town Readies For Private Prison Closure

Stocks in this article: CXW

As coal production slowed, the area's economy went with it. Businesses closed or struggled to stay open.

The prison brought nearly 200 jobs to one of the poorest regions in the South when it opened in 1981. CCA paid employees $8.25 an hour â¿¿ low pay by prison standards but welcome cash for the area.

"It helped the few businesses that remain here," said Goeing, who used to deliver medications to the prison.

Without the prison jobs, Wheelwright Mayor Andy Akers says people will lose their steady income and stop spending money in the area.

"It's going to hurt the grocery stores, the restaurants â¿¿ just everything where they guards are used to spending their money," Akers said.

The prison once housed women from Hawaii and Kentucky. In January 2010, after the scandal broke, Gov. Steve Beshear ordered the women removed from Otter Creek. The state transferred 400 female inmates to Western Kentucky Correctional Complex in Fredonia and moved men into Otter Creek.

Hawaii removed 168 female inmates in 2009, sending them to a prison in Arizona. Multiple lawsuits were filed over the sex accusations. Most were dismissed.

None of that slowed CCA down. In the last five years, the company announced contracts to build new private prisons or expand existing state and federal facilities in more than a half-dozen places ranging from Mississippi to Nevada. CCA spokesman Steve Owen said the company, through Otter Creek and other private prisons, "drives economic growth in any community where it operates."

Alex Friedmann, a convicted armed robber turned inmate advocate, spent six of his 10 years in prison at CCA facilities. He said the closing of Otter Creek is part of a shift by some states to lower incarceration rates and save money on prison costs. Friedmann noted that CCA recently closed a facility in Appleton, Minn., and hasn't found a new client for it. He said they also stopped building a prison in Tennessee for want of a client.

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