The Great Plains Correctional Facility, a private prison in Hinton, will close in May. Local officials said it marks a significant economic loss for the city of roughly 3,000 people.
The federally contracted prison employs 231 people in the area, all of whom will lose their job when it shutters.
“I don't think there's a business in town that will not feel it,” said Kenneth Doughty, the president of the Hinton Telephone Company.
Doughty, who also helped bring the prison to life in the 90s, said the facility was one of his business’ biggest customers.
“About $40,000 a year that it will cost, just this business right here. And it will have an effect on all the businesses in Hinton,” he said.
The GEO Group, a Florida-based company, operates the facility under contract with the U.S. Board of Prisons. About 1,500 inmates housed there will be transferred to other federal facilities after the closure, a BOP spokesperson said in an email.
President Joe Biden signed an executive order targeting private prisons six days after his inauguration.
The order directed the U.S. Department of Justice to not renew contracts with private companies to operate criminal detention facilities. The BOP contract with the GEO Group expires at the end of May.
Disproportionate incarceration rates for people of color and “incentives to incarcerate” were listed as reasons in the order.
The White House press office did not respond to a request for comment on the Great Plains Correctional Facility closure.
“President Biden’s Executive Order is a solution in search of a problem,” said a GEO Group spokesperson in a statement following the executive order.
Jason Garner, the president of the Hinton Economic Development Authority, said the HEDA will lose about 90% of its revenue when the prison closes. He said he began expecting the closure after Biden signed the executive order.
“We knew that we were probably on the chopping block,” Garner said, adding that the HEDA will essentially pause operations until they find a new revenue source. “We’ll just have to suck it up and make do. We’ll basically go idle. Most of the money we received was reinvested back in the town and infrastructure, so we’ll have to put projects on hold until, you know, hopefully until the prison’s reopened.”