Tuesday deadline to present prison petition

Published 4:06 pm Thursday, April 19, 2007

After Pike County voted not to allow a private federal prison Tuesday, the only remaining hurdle for Adams County to acquire one is a petition.

The deadline for Adams County residents to present a petition is Tuesday.

If they get 1,500 signatures asking for a vote, the county has to hold an election to decide the issue.

Email newsletter signup

Robert Palmer, the Cranfield resident spearheading the petition, would not give a specific number of signatures he had gathered.

“They’re coming along,” Palmer said. “All we’re asking is a fair shake to vote. I support jobs, but I was brought up with the belief that everyone should have the right to vote.”

A referendum could mean Adams County might not get the prison, county officials said.

Supervisor President Darryl Grennell said he thought that if an election was held, CCA would not locate their prison in Adams County.

“If we get a petition, we have to set an election,” Grennell said. “I have no idea what type of date would be set. I believe a petition would basically initiate CCA to go ahead and start working diligently in Walthall County. I think a petition would send the wrong message.”

But Grennell isn’t too worried about a petition, he said.

“I personally don’t believe we will get enough signatures,” he said.

Even if the issue were brought to a vote, Grennell said he thought the residents would approve a prison in the county.

“Just listening to people everyday, I’m hearing a majority of people in favor of having a facility here,” Grennell said. “I’d say 99 percent were for the prison.”

County residents elect officials to represent them, Grennell said, and those officials should be able to make a decision on their behalf.

“I try to do my homework and be thorough prior to casting a vote on an issue,” he said. “I try to put myself in their shoes.”

Corrections Corporation of America, the nation’s largest private corrections company, is one of two private companies looking to locate a federal facility in Adams County.

CCA is eyeing a piece of land along U.S. 84 near Cranfield, while the other company, The GEO Group, is looking at a site at the county airport.

CCA is also considering a site in Walthall County, and had previously been looking at a site in Pike County.

CCA officials have said they would like to speed the process along to take advantage of the GO Zone incentives and have a facility ready if they’re awarded a federal contract.

“If there are not enough signatures to put it to a vote, obviously that’s helpful from a timing standpoint,” CCA spokesman Steve Owen said. “Adams County is a little farther along on timing than Walthall County. If it goes to a vote, that obviously pushes the timeline back some.”

While a referendum wouldn’t necessarily mean Adams County had less of a chance of getting their prison, Owen said, the end result of the vote would definitely be a determining factor.

The county board of supervisors will hold a special meeting to receive any petition, Grennell said. If it contained enough signatures, they would have to be verified, he said.