Hundreds rally to keep Brunswick Correctional Center open

By Tara Morgan - bio | email

BRUNSWICK, VA (WWBT) - Some six hundred people crammed into a community meeting hoping to save their largest employer.

The Brunswick Correctional Center in Lawrenceville is slated to close its doors for good on October 10 as part of Governor Kaine's budget reduction plan. Residents, prison employees, community leaders, and state legislators say they're not giving up the fight.

Speakers Thursday night called Governor Kaine's plan an economic assault on the south side of Virginia.

"They give us prisons because nobody else wants them then kick us in the teeth and take them away," said Mayor Sam Adams of Emporia.

There was no holding back with this crowd. Residents say the prison closing will cripple an already poor county.

"You're taking the one and only source  of income the infrastructure of this town alone will dissolve," said Laura Bailey of nearby South Hill.

"28 percent of the jobs cut occur right here in Brunswick county and that to me is unconscionable," said Lawrenceville's Mayor Douglas Pond.

A grassroots effort to keep the prison open is gaining momentum. Residents signed petitions. A new 'save the prison' Facebook page has nearly 1100 fans.

One wrote, "You have the ability to stop this."

Another posted, "Too many families at stake."

At St. Paul's College, it was standing room only.

"Don't give up the hope, I know they're pushing inmates out 45 inmates 90 inmates a day," said Brunswick Sheriff Brian Roberts.

Sheriff Roberts says the local jail authority will not buy the prison for twenty million dollars from the state. It wants a new regional jail to ease overcrowding in Brunswick, Mecklenburg and Dinwiddie. Roberts says the focus now is saving the hundreds of jobs at stake.

"He's asking for more money to bail the state out on unemployment and you're firing 600 people and 160 of them are in Brunswick county," said Roberts.

"There are a lot of facilities in the state that are not as well run as Brunswick so go pick on somebody else Governor Kaine," said Brunswick Commonwealth's Attorney, Leslie Green.

State Senator Louise Lucas, who represents Brunswick, says she plans to introduce a budget amendment during the next general assembly session to put the funding back to keep the prison. But just this past Monday, inmates were already being moved out.

(c) 2009. WWBT, Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.