Tuesday, January 4, 2011

New Va. prison has no prisoners

By Elizabeth Flock 

A brand-new, $105 million prison in Grayson County, Va., has zero prisoners four months after its completion, the Roanoke Times reported Sunday.

The state budget crunch has kept the 1,024-bed complex empty, said Larry Traylor, director of communications for the Virginia Department of Corrections.

After the General Assembly did not appropriate money that the agency expected last year, the Corrections Department trimmed its $1 billion budget and got rid of almost 2,500 prison beds. Traylor estimates that the department is facing a fiscal 2012 budget reduction of $10.9 million.

Virginia's inmate population nearly doubled after the state passed Truth in Sentencing/no parole legislation in 1995, leading to tougher sentences. Last year, however, the state saw its first drop in inmates, losing 195 prisoners for a total of about 38,000.

Traylor said that the new prison could remain empty for two years or longer. Taxpayers will have to pay $715,000 this year to keep it running.

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