State to close prison; inmates will be moved to facility in Chatham

Virginia's Department of Corrections is closing the Mecklenburg Correctional Center.

This comes after Pennsylvania decided earlier this year to remove 1,000 prisoners it housed in Virginia.

The inmates housed at Mecklenburg Correctional Center will be moved to the Green Rock Correctional Center in Chatham.

The Mecklenburg Correctional Center will close by May.

The governor's office says the move will save the state money.  

Here is the news release from Governor McDonnell's office:

Following Pennsylvania’s decision to remove nearly 1,000 inmates currently housed under contract in Virginia, Governor Bob McDonnell has directed the Department of Corrections to close the Mecklenburg Correctional Center in Boydton. The removal of the out-of-state prisoners, along with the resulting loss of revenue (estimated at approximately $20 million a year), will require the consolidation of existing prison facilities in order to maximize the use of existing assets and avoid the state having to replace the revenue previously paid by Pennsylvania. The governor’s Chief of Staff, Martin Kent, and Secretary of Public Safety, Marla Graff Decker, attended the Mecklenburg County Board of Supervisors meeting Monday night to inform the members personally of the closing, while Department of Corrections leadership informed prison employees.

Closing Mecklenburg Correctional Center and consolidating prisoners to the Green Rock Correctional Center in Chatham, which formerly housed the out of state prisoners, results in a net increase to the department’s capacity by approximately 300 beds to house state-responsible offenders at no additional cost to the Commonwealth. It will also reduce the state’s cost per inmate. It currently costs approximately $29,562 per year for each inmate housed at the MCC. That cost will shrink to $19,215 per year at the Green Rock prison.

“Virginia’s prisons are an important part of our public safety system,” said Governor McDonnell. “We also know that they play a significant role in local economies and provide jobs,” said Governor McDonnell. “In these difficult times, it is incumbent upon the Department of Corrections and state government to ensure that public safety continues to be paramount and, while doing so, to be the best stewards of taxpayer’s money. By transferring the prisoners in Mecklenburg Correctional Center to our other facility in Pittsylvania County we will save approximately $10,000 per inmate on an annual basis. While this closing is the fiscally responsible step to take, I know the hardship it will present for the employees of the Mecklenburg Correctional Center and the surrounding community. Our administration is committed to working with those employees, and local partners, to provide as much assistance as possible in the wake of this announcement. I am encouraged that Director Harold Clarke estimates that at least 45 to 50 percent of existing employees can be placed in currently vacant positions with the Department of Corrections.  In addition to the internal transfers, we are committed to finding as many placements out of the state correctional system as possible.”

Governor McDonnell has instructed state agencies, and specifically the Virginia Employment Commission, to work with the Department of Corrections to maximize options for employees. The governor has also instructed state agencies to work with the community to minimize impact on the local economy.  Deputy Secretary of Commerce and Trade for Rural Economic Development Mary Rae Carter, who also attended last night’s meeting, will be spending considerable time working with the locality in this effort.

“This was a difficult decision. Our agency has experienced several closings in the past 10 years and I am very mindful of the impact this announcement will have, specifically on our 300 MCC employees and the community,” said Secretary Decker. “I have tasked the department to work directly with all employees at the facility to answer questions, explain options, and place as many of them in other positions as possible.  We believe we can place 45 to 50 percent of MCC employees in currently vacant positions within the Department of Corrections.  We will also work hard to find positions in other state and local agencies for those who we cannot place within the Department of Corrections.”

Offenders currently incarcerated at MCC will be transferred to other prison facilities within the state with the ultimate goal of closing the facility by May 2012.

MCC was opened in 1976 and, due to its age, continues to require substantial ongoing maintenance work, as well as more capital outlay project requirements. In contrast, Green Rock was completed in 2007 and is in excellent condition with relatively few maintenance issues. The decision to keep Green Rock open and close Mecklenburg provides the Department of Corrections with a facility that is more efficient and has nearly 300 additional inmate beds. MCC is a reception and classification facility with an average daily population of approximately 730 male offenders. Green Rock has an average daily population of approximately 1,000 offenders.