Opponents to proposed federal prison speak before commission - KTRE.com | Lufkin and Nacogdoches, Texas

Opponents to proposed federal prison speak before commission

By Donna McCollum

NACOGDOCHES, TX (KTRE) - Fifteen minutes to voice reams of research conducted by Citizens Opposing Prison Site. Opponent, Jackie Warthan said,  " Studies show rural towns with prisons have less job growth, slower economic development, less per capita income, higher unemployment that towns without a prison. " Each word, each minute, carefully thought out. Loretta Sessions is a former resident of Palestine, a city with a prison. She said,    " For anyone who wants to live in a prison community I would say, I have a house for sale. We've been trying to sell it for a long time. We live approximately two miles from the prison there. "

Commissioner Reggie Cotton supports the prison, but is willing to give the group its first opportunity to speak before an elected body. A beginning to a bigger goal. COPS founder, Dr. Paul Risk said,  " We felt that we really need to have a full fledged public hearing that is not so limited in time. " The former professor is disappointed in current university faculty who he says confidentially tells him they oppose the prison, but fear speaking out could affect their tenure and other rankings on campus.    " Who wants to live in a prison town?, " asks Dr. Dick Voigtel, another retired sfa professors.  That and other economic questions grow along with the number of signatures on a petition placing political pressure on elected officials. The new owner of the Fredonia Hotel, Susan Pack Reents said to the court, " I urge you to reconsider and rescind your unanimous vote for a correctional facility in this county. "  The business woman guaranteed a $3.4 million loan based on her faith in the tourism industry.

Prison proponents, only two in number, spoke briefly, focusing on one issue. Jack Krenick said,  " I am for this resolution, simply for the jobs." Robert Garrett said,  " No, I don't have no long drawn out statistics, but Nacogdoches needs jobs. "

COPS research argues the private prison jobs are not as well paying as constituents are led to believe. Josie Crowson claims,  " They skimp on salaries, benefits and staffing. "  

Repeatedly, opponents to the federal prison have staked signs in front of the proposed site on the north loop. Repeatedly they've been taken down. Now opponents are hoping their remarks before the commission are of a more permanent nature. Risk said, " I think we have a good chance of having this being reconsidered. "  

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