A publication of Appalachian Voices

A publication of Appalachian Voices

Energy Report

Opposition to Proposed Prison on Mine

By Willie Dodson

The federal Bureau of Prisons held a public hearing on March 28 regarding a 1,400-bed prison proposed to be built on a former mountaintop removal coal mine in Roxana, Kentucky.

Local residents were joined by formerly incarcerated people from Washington, D.C., to speak out against the proposal. Opponents cited structural and environmental risks of building on formerly mined land, quality of life impacts to the nearby community, and extreme social, economic and mental-health impacts to prisoners and their communities.

“It has taken this property 50 years to recover [from mining],” said Roxana resident Mitch Whitaker. “I encourage the decision-makers to not surrender this piece of property to the federal government for a prison.”

Like many others, Whitaker underscored the need for investments in infrastructure and housing in the community.

Rep. Hal Rogers (R-Ky.) has championed efforts to build a prison in Letcher County. Both the Obama and Trump administrations opposed funding for the project. The previous iteration of the proposal was canceled in 2019 after a landmark lawsuit was filed on behalf of both local residents and incarcerated individuals.

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  1. Keeper6 says:

    Congress should not be in the business of siting future federal prison locations in advance of the BOPs and DOJs expression of the need or without either agency’s input. Rodgers had successfully had a few prisons build in his state but in extremely difficult locations to retain staff. Prisons ought not to be viewed as economic engines for rural communities. They should be built where they can be more easily staffed and where the local economy can provide adequate and affordable housing within a reasonable commuting distance. The Letcher County location provides none of those things and will forever be a challenge to staff with qualified professionals, further exacerbating the BOPs endemic staffing problems.

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