SHAHEEN FIGHTS TO GET BERLIN PRISON OPEN

Prison would provide $40 million boost to economically distressed area

April 27, 2011

(Washington, D.C.)  – U.S. Senator Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH) today continued her ongoing efforts to get Berlin Prison open, urging the Department of Justice to prioritize funding to open the already-constructed facility.

“We have a warden just waiting to hire staff.  We have a prison system that is overcrowded. We have a community that desperately needs new jobs and an economic boost,” Shaheen said. “Yet, because of Washington’s broken budget process, the Bureau of Prisons is spending $4 million a year to keep a state-of-the-art prison empty.” 

The newly-completed prison has sat vacant for nearly six months because of budget cuts. In the meantime, maintaining the empty prison is costing the government $4 million dollars per year.

The opening of Berlin Prison would provide a much-needed boost to one of the most economically distressed areas of New Hampshire. Opening the prison would give the community a $40 million economic boost and immediately create more than 300 jobs in a region that desperately needs them.

The federal prison system is 35 percent overcrowded and needs the new prison to address safety concerns associated with overcrowding.

The 1,280 bed medium-security federal prison was completed during 2010, at a total cost of $276 million. In addition to the large investment the federal government made in this much-needed facility, the City of Berlin demonstrated its commitment to the project by significantly upgrading its water and sewer infrastructure to meet the prison’s needs, at great cost to local taxpayers.

Shaheen appeared on NBC Nightly News to draw attention to the issue, calling the cuts shortsighted.

The text of today’s letter to James Cole, Deputy Attorney General at the United States Department of Justice,  is below:

 

April 27, 2011

James Cole

Deputy Attorney General

United States Department of Justice

950 Pennsylvania Avenue NW

Washington, DC 20530

Dear Mr. Cole:

As the Department of Justice prepares to submit its spending plan for the remainder of fiscal year 2011 to Congress, I urge you to include funding to activate Federal Correctional Institution (FCI) Berlin.

FCI Berlin is a 1,280 bed medium-security federal prison located in Berlin, New Hampshire. Construction on the facility was completed during 2010, at a total cost of $276 million. In addition to the large investment the federal government made in this much-needed facility, the City of Berlin demonstrated its commitment to the project by significantly upgrading its water and sewer infrastructure to meet the prison’s needs, at great cost to local taxpayers.

Despite the good faith and diligent efforts of all parties involved, FCI Berlin remains vacant nearly six months after construction was completed. In the meantime, maintaining the empty prison is costing the government four million dollars per year, even as the Bureau of Prisons faces significant overcrowding in other medium-security facilities. Activation of FCI Berlin, where a warden has already been hired, will both help ease the problem of overcrowding and immediately create more than 300 jobs in a region that desperately needs them.

Berlin, NH is located in rural Coos County, the most economically distressed area of my state. The recent closure of two regional anchor businesses has driven the unemployment rate in the county, which has long been an economically depressed region, to a level nearly double the state average. The opening of FCI Berlin will provide a much-needed boost to the struggling local economy.

President Obama’s proposed fiscal year 2011 budget included the funding necessary to hire rank-and-file staff and purchase the equipment necessary for FCI Berlin to begin accepting prisoners. I respectfully request that the Department of Justice allocate funds sufficient for FCI Berlin to begin the activation process during the current fiscal year. Thank you for your consideration of this request.

Sincerely,

Jeanne Shaheen

United States Senator

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