Springfield prison celebrates official opening

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(Host) The Southern State Correctional facility in Springfield held its official ribbon cutting ceremony on Thursday. But even as legislators and officials were exchanging congratulations, officials were contemplating an early expansion of the new prison.

VPR’s Susan Keese reports.

(Keese) The $34 million facility won’t technically be open till the prisoners start arriving the week of October 6. But the ribbon cutting was a chance to express high hopes for improvements in the state’s badly over crowded prison system. It also marked what several speakers referred to as a turning point for the hard-pressed Springfield region.

The new prison is slated to provide 135 new jobs when hiring is complete. So far half the new hirees have come from within 20 miles of Springfield.

In his opening remarks Vermont governor Jim Douglas, thanked Springfield for deciding to host the facility.

(Douglas) “The process that we used for selecting a site embodied the highest ethics of Vermont – citizen involvement and local control. To their utmost credit, the people of Springfield nagged in an enlightened debate about the pros and cons of locating this facility in their community. In the end following two votes the people of Springfield voted to house the new correctional facility. For that the people of Vermont and I in particular are very grateful indeed.”

(Keese) Douglas also praised the community for investing the multimillion dollar financial incentives from the state to invest in important community programs.

Speaking before the ceremony, Springfield prison Superintendent Keith Tallon says he hopes to see a 150 bed expansion at the new prison soon.

(Tallon) “Hopefully there’ll be a proposal to go before the legislature this year for an additional 150.”

Tallon says preliminary site work for the proposed expansion has already gotten underway.

For Vermont Public Radio, I’m Susan Keese in Springfield.

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