STOCKTON — The state Department of Corrections reopened its minimum-security facility in northwest Kansas on Wednesday, a measure that will help address prison overcrowding in the state.
Budget cuts led the department to close the Stockton Correctional Facility in Rooks County in April 2009. During the last legislative session, however, $1.7 million was put back in the state's 2011 budget to cover operating costs for the last nine months of the fiscal year.
Department spokesman Bill Miskell said about 20 inmates would move into the 128-bed facility Wednesday afternoon, with the remainder of inmates from across Kansas moving in over about a five-week period.
Miskell said the state had a total male inmate capacity of 8,259, which includes the additional 128 beds at Stockton. The male population, however, stood at 8,331 inmates as of Wednesday, still 72 inmates over capacity.
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The move to reopen the Stockton prison will also add about 30 jobs for Stockton, a town of about 1,600.
"As of this morning, there was a pronounced increase in activity down there," said Roger Hrabe, director of the Rooks County Economic Development Commission.
When the possibility of reopening the Stockton prison first came up, the commission pledged its support to get the prison back in operation. That $50,000 pledge, however, came before the money was added back into the state's budget.
"If they need it, they'll ask for it," he said.
Once the minimum-security facility is fully operational, Miskell said the DOC also plans to re-establish many of its agreements in the region on the use of inmate labor, including mowing grass along I-70.
"We need something for these inmates to do," Miskell said. "And community service work is one of the few thing we have we can do that doesn't cost us money."