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Brundidge civic leader speaks out against prison proposal

Concerned that efforts to bring a 4,000-inmate prison to Brundidge could resurface, a Brundidge civic leader says residents need to continue to speak out in opposition to the plan.

The Rev. Randy Harvey, associate minister of Shiloh Missionary Baptist Church in Troy and a vocal opponent of the proposal, said he believes despite the lack of action on the proposal during a recent council meeting, officials can revisit the issue.

“The item was deleted from the agenda but it will come back when the mayor and council think it has been forgotten,” Harvey said. “But the people are aware of that and we’re going to watch very closely. Brundidge needs a lot of things but a prison is not on that list.”

On Sept. 5, council members reviewed a proposal to contract with Butler Snow, LLP to lobby for Brundidge as the site of a new state correctional facility. The proposed fee was $60,000.

When Mayor Isabell Boyd received no immediate response from the council, Council Member Betty Baxter District 1 made a motion that the matter be tabled in an effort for the public to be better informed.

The item was not placed on the council’s Sept. 19 agenda, and officials have said that it will be revisited at a later time.

“A lot of people are really concerned about it and a lot of people here in Brundidge want it,” Mayor Isabell Boyd on September 29. “We’re going to bring it back up at a later time.”

Boyd didn’t say when the issue might come back up on their agenda again.

Harvey said he believes Brundidge residents would not support the construction of a prison in their town.

“The mayor is saying the people of Brundidge want a prison in their town,” Harvey said. “I have talked to people all around town and that’s certainly not what I’m hearing. People aren’t blind. We see what happened in Clio and Clayton. The prisons have done nothing positive for those towns, and a prison wouldn’t do anything positive for Brundidge.

“Who wants to move to a town where there’s a prison? What business wants to come to a town where there’s a prison?”

City Manager Britt Thomas said a prison could bring jobs and retail development to the area.

“What a mega prison would mean to Brundidge is that 750 employees would be needed and many of those would be correctional officers,” Thomas said.

In addition to the correctional officers, the prison would employ administrative personnel, mental health workers, nurses and skilled workers in maintenance.

Thomas said retail traditionally follows disposable income and, with the additional job opportunities, local and area residents would have opportunities for good-paying jobs that would translate to disposable income.

“The prison would basically be a city of 4,000 people who are confined,” Thomas said. “With that many people, there would be the potential for a small hotel or motel for visiting family members who could come from places like Mobile, Florence and even Tennessee, as well as other businesses that would serve their needs.”

“Prisons don’t house law-abiding people. They house people that have broken the law – criminals,” Harvey said. “Many of the prisoners are products of their environment and those that come to see them helped create that environment or are a part of it. How do drugs and contraband get into prisons? Visitors. And, that’s what we want for Brundidge?  You cannot convince me that the people of Brundidge want a prison and a motel to house the prisoners ‘visitors.’”

Harvey also spoke out about the idea of the prison bringing jobs to the city.

“Even if it did, people don’t want to work,” he said. “Ask around. You can’t get people to work around here. If they did apply and could pass the drug test, they won’t hold the job. If the people of Brundidge want their town to just completely die, the prison is the best way I know how to put a nail in the coffin.”

Harvey said it’s time for the people of Brundidge to stand up and dedicate themselves to bringing Brundidge back.

“If the city has $60,000 to throw away trying to get a prison, let’s take that money and clean up the town, do something for the kids,” he said.  “And, as citizens, we’ve got to do our part. We’ve got to be together and work together and do so in a constructive way.  It’s up to us and we have to stand together.

“And we’ve got to be aware of what our city government is doing.  This issue about the prison is not dead. We can’t be caught unaware.”