I was raised in Lansing and started my career in Leavenworth in 1992 as a correctional officer at the Leavenworth Detention Center. That put me on the path to leading CoreCivic, which was recently selected by the Kansas Department of Corrections, or KDOC, to rebuild portions of the Civil War-era Lansing Correctional Facility. We would provide a real estate-only solution, with our services relating strictly to the ownership and upkeep of building assets. KDOC would continue to staff and manage the facility.
We believe this provides an innovative, cost-effective solution for Kansas. Unfortunately, we also believe much of the recent discussion about the project hasn’t given a full and factual picture of the process that brought us to this point.
Putting a fine point on the problem, the editorial board of The Kansas City Star recently wrote, “Kansas needs to rebuild its largest and oldest prison. … There’s no doubt about that.” As a 25-year veteran of the corrections profession, I know that a new facility can create a safer, more appropriate environment for inmates and staff, and provide the kind of programming space proven to help people prepare to return to their communities. As a native Kansan, I know that the people of this state deserve a process for accomplishing this task that’s transparent and a proposal that provides great taxpayer value. I believe both have been achieved.
First and foremost, this has been an appropriate and competitive procurement process. The corrections department issued a request for qualifications in April to explore options for constructing a new facility on the Lansing Correctional Facility site, which has housed offenders since 1863. KDOC and the Department of Administration followed a competitive procurement process with multiple options sought and allowed.
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After reviewing proposals submitted, the corrections department performed an analysis that determined that CoreCivic’s lease-purchase proposal offered the best value to the state. The arm’s-length methodology that resulted in the selection of our company was comprehensive, thoughtful and fair.
The proposal we put forward is a good deal for Kansas taxpayers. CoreCivic and its partners J.E. Dunn and DLR Group are leaders in the field of corrections design, construction and facility ownership. Of the 75 correctional assets CoreCivic owns nationwide, more than 20 were developed by the J.E. Dunn/DLR team. This project-specific experience offers the state the best quality and value.
Our model shifts financial risk for the design, construction, maintenance and building life cycle away from taxpayers and onto the private sector. It also enables the government to use its existing bond capacity for other immediate priorities.
CoreCivic and the J.E. Dunn/DLR team have a strong track record of delivering corrections projects that are on time and on budget. With cost overruns and construction delays plaguing so many government projects, final price tags can spiral out of control. We enable our partners to decide what their specific needs are and what they want their fixed cost to be, and we then deliver a solution to meet exactly those parameters. There will be no surprises or increases in cost because we assume the risk. We also take on the costs and all risk for the day-to-day and long-term maintenance of the facility during the lease term.
Addressing this problem sooner rather than later matters. There is a daily human cost to the current facility’s inmates and staff, who are living and working in crumbling conditions. But there are financial costs, too. Delaying the project by just 12 months would cost the state at least $20 million over the life of the proposed lease.
Ultimately, Kansas needs a new correctional facility. It’s a matter of public safety. This process has been methodical and transparent — as it should be — and our proposal is good for taxpayers. Let’s work together to provide an innovative solution to this pressing challenge.
Damon Hininger has served as president and CEO of CoreCivic since 2009. He joined the company in 1992 as a correctional officer at Leavenworth Detention Center.