$532M Leavenworth Penitentiary replacement breaks ground

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Dive Brief:

  • Contractors broke ground Oct. 30 on the $532 million Leavenworth federal prison and satellite prison camp, FOX 4 Kansas City reported. They will replace the antiquated structure built in 1897 known as “Big Top” that served as the nation’s first maximum-security prison, and today is the Bureau of Prison’s oldest facility.
  • Bethesda, Maryland-based Clark Construction is the general contractor and will build the replacements on undeveloped ground owned by the Bureau of Prisons east of the existing penitentiary, according to FOX 4 Kansas City. Congress appropriated the funding for the construction in three parts in fiscal years 2019, 2020 and 2021.
  • The Federal Correctional Institution Leavenworth and the Federal Prison Camp are expected to be complete by May 2026, FOX 4 Kansas City reported.

Dive Insight:

The replacement penitentiary will encompass approximately 560,000 square feet and house up to 1,500 inmates. Together, the new facilities are expected to staff around 340 correctional officers and additional personnel.

Once the old penitentiary complex is empty, project leaders say it could be used for Bureau of Prisons training or as a historical museum, but no final decisions have been made, according to FOX 4 Kansas City. The building’s electrical, plumbing, heating, ventilation and air conditioning systems have been long outdated.

Bureau of Prisons Director Colette Peters said the new complex would have space for programs for treatment, education, work and to connect with family in a more normalized environment, according to the Kansas Reflector. While the new facility is designed to improve conditions for inmates and staff alike, correctional officers say a staffing shortage must also be addressed.

U.S. Sen. Jerry Moran, who chairs the Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on Commerce, Justice, Science and Related Agencies, which has jurisdiction of the Bureau of Prisons, said the new prison complex was the second-largest federal investment in state history, behind only the $1.2 billion National Bio and Agro-Defense Facility in Manhattan, Kansas, built more than a decade ago.

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