- The Washington Times - Wednesday, November 19, 2003

BALTIMORE (AP) — Federal officials are considering a proposal to build a privately run prison in Dundalk.

Correctional Services Corp. of Sarasota, Fla., has proposed a 1,750-bed prison just south of the Turners Station neighborhood, a U.S. Department of Justice spokesman confirmed Tuesday.

The proposal comes just as Dundalk is pursuing a long-term redevelopment plan that includes a waterfront project.

“Clearly, the bureaucrats in Washington have no sense of the community they seek to impact,” County Executive James T. Smith Jr. said Tuesday.

Turners Station “is a historic community, and if the federal government wants to intervene in people’s lives, they should lift them up, not cast them aside,” he said.

Courtney Speed, a Turners Station community leader, said the 2,200 residents there “are to tally opposed to this prison. We’ve been working hard to revitalize our community.”

Before the prison project moves forward, community groups and local leaders will be allowed to comment in meetings that may begin in January.

The Justice Department said it will conduct a thorough study of what it considers the best locations for the prison and then gather input from communities and officials.

“I can’t comment on the internal process,” said Justice spokesman Jorge Martinez. “This is at an early stage, but we do need a facility in the Baltimore-Washington area.”

The proposal for a prison was discussed last week in Washington at the Office of Federal Detention Trustee, which oversees privately run prisons.

Gov. Robert L. Ehrlich Jr.; U.S. Rep. C.A. Dutch Ruppersberger, Maryland Democrat; the Department of Homeland Security, and the executives of Prince George’s and Baltimore counties were among those who attended the meeting.

Two other companies, Correction Corp. of America based in Nashville, Tenn., and Wackenhut Corrections Corp. in Boca Raton, Fla., have proposed three prison sites in Prince George’s County.

The proposed facility in Dundalk would hold pretrial defendants and those suspected of violating federal immigration laws.

The 101-acre site being considered in Baltimore County is on the Sollers Point peninsula where the Patapsco River and Bear Creek converge. The property, owned by Baltimore Gas & Electric, is supposed to be the cornerstone of Dundalk’s revitalization, with a cruise ship terminal, hotels, a new sports arena, homes and a water link to the Inner Harbor.

Scott Woodall, director of BGE’s real estate holdings, said Tuesday the utility has not been approached about the prison proposal.

Officials at Correctional Services Corp. did not return telephone calls to the Baltimore Sun on Tuesday.

“Just when you think you are making some headway in the community, the federal government comes along and wants to dump a prison here,” said Dick McJilton, president of the Dundalk Chamber of Commerce. “This time, I think they have a fight on their hands.”

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