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Jan 31 2011

People have a right to make decisions based on full disclosure

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Written by Jodi Lougheed.
I have just been all over this site and it is really inspirational. I especially feel for Lorna Church after reading her article “Say No to Prison for Lumby”. I think a lot of Lumby residents have the same fears that she does. We have just settled into this wonderful community and I fear that a prison and the ensuing halfway houses will consume this town. We have two young girls, enjoy farm life and a small town like this is where we want to be. We have the same fears (warranted or not) about their safety and how the feel of the town would change, especially with it being a small community.

Realistically though, it takes analysis based on hard facts to really get some people off the fence on issues like this. Economically, as I mentioned in a previous post, prisons do not help small communities. Numerous studies by authors such as Ryan S. King, Marc Mauer, Tracy Huling, Terry Besser, Dexter Whitfield and many more, have repeatedly come to the same conclusions:
– Few prison staff reside locally, they do not reside in the prison town or county thus reducing any positive impact on the local economy. Local Residents are often ineligible for employment due to union requirements or lack of necessary skills.

– The effect of prisons on rural communities in National studies and research projects reveal that the effect on local economies was significantly less than that claimed, and in most cases had negative impacts.

– The location of prisons in rural areas has also led to environmental issues caused by pressure on water and wastewater infrastructure, thus resulting in no tax relief for the local residents and a myriad of other issues for our children to deal with.

– Stigmatism, reduced attractiveness to future business and the multiplier effect not present, as prisons fail to generate linkages into the local economy.

– In addition, small, rural “prison towns” experience less growth than non-prison towns and have a greater increase in unemployment, poverty, and percent minorities. This also results in a general decrease in property values in the area as there is not the expected increase in housing demand experienced by major urban centres that house prisons.

Terry Besser, a professor of sociology at Iowa State University who studied the economic impact of prisons on rural towns said “Unfortunately my research showed that there [were] not benefits” and “there were negative consequences”.

As quoted from Dexter Whitfield (Economic Impact of Prisons in Rural Areas – A Review of the Issues): “It was widely believed that prisons had positive effects on local economies with no negative effects on property values, public safety or the quality of life. One study concluded that there was a gap between the perception of the economic benefits and reality … Washington State University undertook a national analysis to examine the impact of new prisons on the pace of growth. For non-metropolitan counties — the counties in which the majority of prisons have been built and counties that have competed to attract in order to boost local growth – there is no evidence that prisons have provided a boost. Neither established nor newly built prisons made a significant contribution to employment growth in rural counties” (Hooks et al, 2004).

Among slow-growing counties, the effect of established prisons failed to attain statistical significance in any panel. Among these slow-growing counties, it appears that new prisons do more harm than good.”

Well, those are some scary facts and there is more not even touched on! I really hope people read this and get a chance to do more research of their own. I have seen so many different opinions and worries voiced by concerned citizens and each comment sheds a new light on the subject. As a Real Estate Broker in real estate 14 years, a business owner, an Environmental Engineering Technologist and last, but not least, a mother, I hope my experience, in addition to some of this research, is of value in helping clarify some of the issues surrounding this prison proposal.

I truly do not think this Prison would benefit the village in the long term and I believe people have a right to make decisions based on full disclosure of all the relevant facts. Just as large business decisions or real estate transactions can affect a person’s life, this decision will affect the life of an entire community.

Get out there and voice your opinion. It counts.
Make the Most of It!

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