Otter Creek set to reopen

The former Otter Creek Correctional facility at Wheelwright will soon reopen under the name Southeast State Correctional Complex and under state operation, Gov. Andy Beshear announced last week.

Floyd County is slated to see new job opportunities coming over the next months as Kentucky leadership announced the Southeast State Correctional Complex will be opening to help reduce the number of state inmates in county jails.

According to a press release on May 28, Gov. Andy Beshear and the Justice and Public Safety Cabinet announced plans for the Department of Corrections to open and operate the Southeast Correctional Complex in the former Otter Creek Correctional facility at Wheelwright. The announcement comes on the heels of Kentucky’s legislature passing its one-year state budget in April, which specifically allocates funds for the complex to be opened during this fiscal year.

“The 656-bed prison is located in Wheelwright, and its opening will reduce the number of state inmates in county jails,” Beshear in the press release. “The state commits to safely and effectively running this state prison, while being able to bring new job opportunities to Floyd County and its surrounding counties.”

Although DOC will lease the building from CoreCivic, the facility will operate as a state prison, according to the press release. The hiring process will begin immediately with those who have previously applied for positions at the facility, which eventually will employ over 200 staff members, the release said. DOC will evaluate seasoned correctional staff who wish to voluntary transfer to the new facility and inmates will be transferred to the prison as soon as staff training is completed over the summer.

“The cabinet, along with the Department of Corrections’ commitment to hold offenders to the highest standards of personal accountability and responsibility will remain unchanged as we open and operate this facility in Floyd County,” said Justice and Public Safety Cabinet Secretary Mary Noble. “Proactive measures taken at the other state prisons to aid in the fight against the novel coronavirus will be enforced at this prison beginning day one. We will continue to monitor the situation and respond with necessary action in order to protect correctional officers, staff and individuals placed in our custody.”

According to the press release, precautions will be taken in consultation with the Department of Public Health to reduce the risk of the COVID-19 virus entering the prison. The additional initiatives enforced at all DOC facilities to mitigate the spread of the virus will be implemented at this facility as well.

“Southeast State Correctional Complex will be a state prison in every sense other than ownership and upkeep of the facility,” said Corrections Commissioner Cookie Crews. “It will mirror our other state prisons and we will be able to offer programming and educational opportunities for this population. We will provide a substance abuse program, other evidence-based programs, and vocational programs such as carpentry.”

State leaders such as Sen. Johnny Ray Turner, D-Prestonsburg and State Rep. Ashley Tackett Lafferty, D-Martin, applauded Beshear and the Justice and Public Safety Cabinet for moving forward with the plans.

“I am thrilled to see plans for the opening of the prison in Wheelwright being put into action,” Turner said. “Working alongside Gov. Beshear, Rep. Tackett Laferty, the Kentucky Department of Corrections, and the legislature, I appreciate all the efforts across the board on this getting done.”

Laferty shared Turner’s sentiments and added that the reopening is great news for the community, while also providing an ecumenic boost, right when the area needs it the most.

“I want to thank Gov. Beshear, the Department of Corrections, my colleagues in the General Assembly, and those here locally who never gave up hope about getting this facility back up and running,” she said. “I’m also grateful we will soon have a larger role to play when it comes to reducing overcrowding within Kentucky’s state prisons and local jails.”

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