By: Nicole Newby
A group of local citizens, including some SFA students, will stage its first protest against building a federal prison in Nacogdoches at 5 p.m. Tuesday downtown in front of city hall.
In response to the decision to build the prison in Nacogdoches, Dr. Paul Risk, a retired SFA agriculture professor, created the group Citizens Opposed to Prison Site. "COPS is a place where people can have a unified voice to speak out against it," said Whitson. "We are trying to preserve the oldest town in Texas," Currid said.
Nacogdoches is known for being the oldest town in Texas and the home of SFA, but a new entity may soon become another signature characteristic of the East Texas town.
The Nacogdoches Economic Development Corporation and the city and county commissioners unanimously backed a proposal for a private federal prison that would house illegal immigrants to be built inside Loop 224 on Northwest Stallings Drive. The prison would be owned by the Management and Training Corporation, which aims to provide the necessary skills for convicted criminals to become productive members of society.
The facility would provide some benefits for the community, such as 300 jobs and $11 million in annual salaries. In addition to the opportunities for employment specifically with the prison, construction jobs would also be created for the projected 14-month building time as well as opportunities for SFA internships. The city is also confident that the prison would bring in more tax income.
However, some are worried that the addition of a prison could negatively affect tourism in Nacogdoches, one of the town's primary industries. Other concerns include light pollution, property values, town safety and SFA enrollment.
"SFA is the pumping organ of this town. Do we really want to shift the attention to a prison?" said Ashley Whitson, Fairfield graduate student.
"The city voted and gave two days for other citizens to vote, but kept it quiet because they knew people would object," said Ashlee Currid, The Woodlands junior. "Even the people who sold the land didn't know who they were selling it to. They heard from a local that it was for a private prison."
Since the prison would be privately owned, it would not have to abide by the Freedom of Information Act, which allows citizens to know who is in the facility and why.
MTC's prisons have been known to be overcrowded and to not offer legal aid or medical care, according to various Internet reports. Also, instances of unsanitary conditions have been reported.
MTC is linked with prisons in Iraq and Canada, as well. "They are constantly breaking human rights laws," Whitson said.
There have been federal charges filed against the company for smuggling illegal immigrants using a company van to bring to the prisons. "The fact that a prison is a business-that is the problem," Currid said. "They give these people false hope who want to come to America for jobs and opportunities, and instead they put them in these prisons so they can make money off them."
COPS meets in Liberty Hall on Main Street They also encourage people opposed to the prison to write emails to city commissioners and to the local daily newspaper.
For more information about COPS, visit www.stopnacprison.com.
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