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Legislators Push to Open Prison

Legislators push to open prison

Sen. Bill Carrico and Del. Israel O'Quinn are urging the governor to open the dormant state prison in Grayson County by July 2013.

RICHMOND — State Sen. Bill Carrico (R-Fries) and Grayson County Administrator Jonathan Sweet met with Gov. Bob McDonnell on Feb. 13 to discuss River North Correctional Facility, a state-run prison in Grayson County that has sat dormant since construction was completed two years ago.  McDonnell, Carrico and Sweet met to “begin developing a strategy for opening the correctional facility as soon as funding can be identified,” Carrico said in a press release. “I have had an ongoing dialogue with the governor and local leaders on this issue, and I am confident that by working closely together, we can bring this project to fruition and put hundreds of people back to work.”

Del. Israel O’Quinn was scheduled to attend the meeting as well, but a nine-hour floor session in the House of Delegates prevented him from attending. “I am glad the governor is willing to work towards the opening of the prison in Grayson County,” O’Quinn said. “This is one of my top priorities and Senator Carrico and I have had numerous meetings with public safety officials to address our concerns. This is a big step in the right direction.”

Carrico, who represented Grayson County in the House of Delegates for 10 years before being elected to the Virginia Senate last November, lead the effort to convince the Virginia Department of Corrections to locate a prison in Grayson.

That effort began in 2007, and the facility was completed in 2010. However, the state has never allocated any money to operate the prison.
It was intended to employ around 300 people, but has only a skeleton crew of maintenance workers.

“Now that it’s here, we need to take the necessary steps to ensure that it becomes operational and provides our area with hundreds of badly-needed jobs,” Carrico said.
This week, the Virginia Senate will vote on a budget, which includes language sponsored by Carrico expressing the intent of the General Assembly that the governor provide sufficient funds for the opening of the correctional facility by July 1, 2013. The budget amendment also includes language directing the Department of Corrections to develop a plan to open the facility and provide copies of the plans to the governor and various other state officials.

“Tough economic times demand diligent work and strong relationships within the legislative and executive branches to find sustainable funding for the prison’s operational costs,” Carrico said in the press release. “I have and will continue to introduce budget amendments to fund the prison, and I will continue to engage the Governor and other leaders at every level until we open the doors to River North Correctional Facility.”

The Twin County Regional Chamber of Commerce also is conducting a letter-writing drive, where locals can send letters to members of the General Assembly, supporting budget amendments that would pay for opening the prison.