By Robin Lempel
While America has the largest prison population in the world, at least 17 states have reduced their prison capacity since 2011. This has happened for a number of reasons, from budget cuts to a decrease in crime to policy changes. But now that some states are reducing their prison capacity, they need to think of what to do with all of that extra space.
And they’ve come up with some great ideas to turn the prisons into something positive. The Bronx’s Fulton Correctional Facility will be turned into a reentry center for former prisoners, while Gainsville Correctional Institution in Florida was turned into a homeless shelter, and a Louisiana detention complex has become a transitional work facility.
That’s not all prisons have turned into, though. There’s been a trend to turn former prisons into hotels. The Liberty Hotel in Boston, for example, has turned into a luxury hotel alongside five restaurants and bars. It was actually the Charles Street Jail until 1990.
From The Arthur Kill Correctional Facility on Staten Island turning into a movie studio to a prison in upstate New York turning into a veterans’ cemetery, a Native American cultural center, or a summer camp, people are coming up with all kinds of creative ideas to take what was a prison and turn it into something positive. Nick Erker is even using the former High Plains Correctional Facility for his medicinal marijuana business, according to the Marshall Project.
“Prison repurposing comes in when you propose that the closure of the prison creates the responsibility to plan for those unmet needs of the community where it is,” said architect Raphael Sperry in an interview with Yes In My Backyard.
“And we listened to community members talk about their visions for their towns,” he continued. “What I heard is that, like urban communities with many people in prison, rural areas are in need of better education and recreation opportunities for their youth, more employment to support families, and a revival of community life."