"The only thing interesting to CCA is can they generate a profit because they are a for-profit company," said Friedmann, who now lives in Old Hickory, Tenn. "There's a social cost ... when you have communities dependent on incarceration as a business model. That's a very dangerous thing."
For Wheelwright, though, Otter Creek is a rare economic bright spot.
"Jobs are few in the mountains," said state Sen. Johnnie Ray Turner, D-Prestonsburg. "We're going to have to try to do something."
Turner said Kentucky and CCA must find an alternative use for the prison, either leasing it to another state or converting it to a rehabilitation facility. Until something happens, Turner said he expects lots phone calls from people looking for help finding work.
Kentucky House Speaker Greg Stumbo, D-Prestonsburg, hopes something can be done to reopen the prison soon.
"I supported making this a state-owned facility and will continue to do so," Stumbo said.
Beshear's spokeswoman, Kerri Richardson, said state unemployment benefits are available once the prison closes.
Owen said employees were given an opportunity to stay with the company, either at the Lee Adjustment Center in Beattyville, where Vermont houses roughly 800 inmates, or at the Marion Adjustment Center in St. Mary's, where Kentucky houses about 800. Owen said employees were also given a crack at openings at one of CCA's 60 other facilities across the country.
"CCA will continue to market Otter Creek to potential government partners with the hope of reopening the facility," Owen said.
Akers, the mayor for the last 18 months, said that's a positive sign.
"I don't think they're going to be shut down that long," Akers said.
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