Leavenworth would welcome another U.S. prison, mayor says

Construction of a second federal prison in Leavenworth would bring hundreds of long-term jobs, Mayor Mark Preisinger said in assuring federal officials that residents would welcome the project.

The U.S. Bureau of Prisons is considering building a new facility on the grounds of the U.S. Penitentiary to house about 1,500 medium-security inmates. The proposal also includes a minimum-security camp for up to 300 inmates.

At a hearing Wednesday night on the project’s environmental impact, Preisinger said Leavenworth officials have been told the new installation would bring 300 to 400 jobs, the St. Joseph News-Press reported.

“There’s not one person in this town that’s lived here more than a year or so that does not know someone who works for the federal prison system,” Preisinger said. “It’s solid employment.”

Bridgette Lyles, a site selection specialist for the Bureau of Prisons, said the federal correctional system needs new facilities.

“This is especially important within the north central region of the United States, where the need for additional bed space is a serious concern,” she said.

Among the region’s 12 states, three — North Dakota, Nebraska and Iowa — have no federal prisons, Lyles said.

None of the 22 people who attended the hearing spoke against the project, while some agreed with Preisinger that the direct and ancillary jobs would be welcome.

“I know that Leavenworth is very much in favor of this,” resident Max Nuss told Lyles. “I know it will be an economic boon.”

The environmental impact study, required of federal projects to weigh the effects on surrounding places and people, was filed in November and has a comment period that runs into early January.

Maps show various possibilities for placement of the new facilities, one that kept both on the eastern portion of the grounds and one that had the prison camp separated on the western property.

Preisinger half jokingly said the bureau should take into account the 11 buffalo that graze on the western part of the prison grounds. The bureau owns them, but the townspeople have adopted them, he said.

“We will make room for the buffalo,” the mayor said.