Kansas legislators remain skeptical of new Lansing prison deal

Source: Allison Kite, Topeka Capital-Journal, January 11, 2018
Legislators remained skeptical Thursday of a plan backed by Gov. Sam Brownback to rebuild the state’s oldest, largest prison.  …. The council is expected to take a vote on the proposal next week, but legislators have continually voiced concerns over the project’s cost and CoreCivic, the private prison operator that would build it. The state would still operate the prison. …. Ward said he was concerned about correctional officers’ safety because the proposal claims to require 46 percent fewer staff members. The Kansas Department of Corrections did not engage the Kansas Organization of State Employees, which represents officers, on the project. ….


Opinion: Bring Lansing prison proposal out of the dark
Source: Lisa Ochs, Kansas City Star, December 17, 2017
That project is the proposed new prison that would replace most of the current Lansing Correctional Facility. The Kansas Department of Corrections, or DOC, is pushing a lease/purchase arrangement under which private contractor CoreCivic would build the new structure and lease it to the state for 20 years. … After limited legislative review of this scheme, the Legislature’s Joint Committee on State Building Construction refused to endorse this approach. … Legislators also expressed concerns that the CoreCivic contract would be a first step toward privatization of prison operations in Kansas. As State Sen. Laura Kelly of Topeka pointed out, there is little interest in the Legislature in privatization. …

Kansas wants private prison company to build Lansing replacement
Source: John Hanna, Associated Press, November 30, 2017

Kansas plans to have the biggest private prison company in the U.S. build a replacement for the state’s oldest and largest correctional facility and pay for the project by leasing the new prison from the firm for 20 years. The state Department of Corrections announced Thursday that it selected CoreCivic Inc., based in Nashville, Tennessee, as its contractor for the new prison for 2,400 inmates in Lansing, in the Kansas City area. … Republican Gov. Sam Brownback’s administration contends a lease-purchase deal is the most cost-effective way to build a new prison, even after a state audit in July questioned that assessment. Two legislative committees still must review the plan, and legislative leaders and Brownback must formally sign off next month for the two-year, $170 million project to move forward. …

Secrecy surrounds efforts to rebuild Kansas’ largest prison
Source: Jonathan Shorman and Hunter Woodall, Kansas City Star, September 27, 2017
A high level of secrecy surrounds an effort to rebuild Kansas’s oldest and largest prison. The Kansas Department of Corrections received bids from three companies in the past week to build a new prison at Lansing, Corrections Secretary Joe Norwood told lawmakers on Wednesday. The construction project could ultimately cost Kansas upwards of $200 million. But few details about the bids – including names of bidders and a final cost estimate – have been released publicly. … “Most prison projects, we have a bid opening where all the numbers are all read out loud – a public bid opening,” said Mike Gaito, the agency’s director of capital improvements. “This is a negotiated procurement so it does not happen.” In a negotiated procurement, the government negotiates with the bidders after they submit bids. The winning bid is not always based on the lowest price. … “We’re very concerned about the lack of transparency the Kansas Department of Corrections is exhibiting with not sharing with the public about who the bidders are and the cost estimate,” said Robert Choromanski, director of the Kansas Organization of State Employees. …

…. KDOC would not identify Wednesday the companies that bid on the project, or details of their bids. The Kansas Department of Administration has previously named three companies who expressed interest: Tennessee-based Core Civic, Florida-based GEO Group and Lansing Correctional Partners. … The financial stakes for both Kansas and the companies pursuing the contract are high. State auditors have said using bonds for the project could ultimately cost the state $178 million, while a lease-purchase agreement would cost up to $206 million. The agency has not decided which path it wants to use. …

Plan would cut Kansas prison’s staffing more than 40 percent
Source: John Hanna, Associated Press, February 8, 2017

Kansas would cut staffing at its largest prison by more than 40 percent under a plan for replacing it by leasing a modern lockup built by a private company, the state’s top corrections official told legislators Wednesday.  Corrections Secretary Joe Norwood said the new prison in Lansing, built where part of the existing one now stands, would require fewer officers to watch inmates, would be safer and would operate more efficiently. … On Wednesday, several prominent Democratic legislators questioned whether Republican Gov. Sam Brownback’s administration is moving too quickly. They also suggested that the lease-purchase proposal would be a step toward privatizing the prison system. … Rebecca Proctor, executive director of the largest union for state employees, questioned that assessment, saying staffing is based on the number of inmates.  “I just find it incredibly concerning,” she said of the proposal and the department’s projections for a smaller staff. …