TOPEKA, Kan. — Kansas Department of Corrections (KDOC) officials announced in late January that they are considering constructing a new prison at the Lansing Correctional Facility site in Lansing, Kan., to use in place of current structures. A new modern facility would be both safer and cheaper to maintain, reported the Associated Press.
The state’s largest prison has housed offenders since opening in 1863, and the oldest part of the facility still has long rows of cells in tiers in lieu of the typical square pod cells used in modern facilities. This makes it difficult for corrections officials to monitor each cell at one time. Not only has the facility become costly to renovate, but building a new one will allow it to upgrade its security systems as well. Department Spokesman Todd Fertig told the Associated Press that the oldest part of the Lansing prison will be mothballed but preserved, with other parts of the facility being razed.
The new facility would also increase the state’s prison capacity. The state’s adult inmate population has slightly exceeded the prison system’s capacity for more than a year; however, as of late January the prison had 2,366 inmates in its space built for 2,405, reported the Associated Press. The KDOC plans to keep all of the inmates within its prison system during construction.
KDOC plans to release a Request for Proposals within the next month to allow construction companies to propose building and financing plans for the state to consider. KDOC Secretary Joe Norwood said in a statement that the project would take about three years to complete. While Norwood did not say how the state would finance the project, he said that he expects it to be “budget neutral” due to the efficiencies that a modern facility will provide.
The Associated Press reported that the announcement surprised lawmakers who are starting to solve budget shortfalls that are totaling almost $1.1 billion through June 2019. The state used bonds to finance construction of its newest maximum-security prison, located outside El Dorado, but that was 26 years ago now.