North Lake Correctional Facility preps for opening

BALDWIN — Inmates will soon be arriving at the North Lake Correctional Facility in Baldwin. Executives at the facility opened it up for media tours on Monday, Sept. 30.

The facility will house up to 1800 low-security inmates serving federal sentences with 90 months or less remaining to serve, with deportation orders upon completion of their sentence.

The facility is expected to provide around 300 jobs including correctional officers, healthcare professionals, teachers, administrative and support staff, most of which is expected to come from within a 50-mile radius of the prison.

“We have 260 staff members on the payroll as of today,” Facility administrator Don Emerson said. “We are still looking to hire more corrections officers, food service personnel and an on-site psychologist.”

The local wages, including benefits, are expected to be nearly $17 million a year. In addition, the facility will purchase local goods and services for ongoing facility operations, GEO Group, Inc. officials said.

The North Lake Correctional Facility is being operated by GEO Group,Inc., a for-profit prison system based in Florida.

In May, 2019, GEO Group Inc. was awarded a 10-year contract with the Federal Bureau of Prisons to house criminal non-U.S. citizens at the Baldwin facility.

“The contract is for 10 years, but we hope to extend that to 20, 30, or even 40 years,” Emerson said.

A company press release said offenders housed at the facility will have the opportunity to participate in educational programs, including computer courses and building trades. There will be life skills programs, indoor and outdoor recreational activities and art and hobby crafts. In addition, the facility will provide a library and multi-denominational religious opportunities.

When asked about the planned protests to the opening of the facility, Emerson said he respects the people’s freedom of speech and their right to protest.

“There is a lot of mis-information out there about this being an ICE center — it is not,” he said. “We are a Federal Bureau of Prisons facility and the inmates will be part of the Federal Criminal Alien Requirement (CAR) Program.”

The CAR program is an agency of the Department of Justice which holds individuals who are serving sentences for federal crimes. It was established in order to implement a more cost effective and efficient system to ensure all criminal aliens serving sentences for federal crimes were identified and removed upon completion of their sentence.

Facility officials expect the facility to begin receiving inmates this month, but did not know the exact date.