- Associated Press - Sunday, December 14, 2014

MCCOOK, Neb. (AP) - Nebraska is considering spending roughly $260 million to expand three prison facilities, but officials in the southwest corner of the state think expanding the work camp there would be a better option.

The McCook Daily Gazette reports (https://bit.ly/1387GGO ) five community leaders from McCook recently visited Lincoln to make the case for expanding the McCook Work Ethic Camp to handle roughly 500 inmates.

McCook City Councilman Jerry Calvin said expanding the work camp would be more cost effective than building prison beds.

“It seems to be an issue of severely underutilizing the Work Ethic Camp,” Calvin said.

Currently, the McCook program has 154 offenders and the capacity for 200.

This fall, a consultant recommended the state add 750 new beds to the community corrections centers in Lincoln and Omaha to help reduce prison crowding. And the consultant also recommended adding more than 350 beds to the Lincoln Correctional Center.

The work camp near McCook was created in 1997 during a previous period of concerns about overcrowded prisons.

Calvin said the program near McCook that teaches inmates vocational skills while they serve their sentences enjoys strong support in the area.

The Work Ethic Camp sits on about 41 acres of land, but it occupies less than half the property so there’s room for expansion.

City Manager Nate Schneider said he was optimistic after the meeting with officials in Lincoln.

“All in all, I thought it was a good effort and all of us walked away pleased with their willingness to listen to it,” Schneider said.

As part of expanding the work camp, McCook leaders are proposing to annex the facility.

Doing so could save the work camp roughly $4,500 a year in utility bills because water and sewer rates are lower inside the city limits. Officials also said being in the city limits should reduce insurance costs for the facility.

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Information from: McCook Daily Gazette, https://www.mccookgazette.com

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