No New Prison in Suwannee County

The news comes as a blow to county officials. The state budget signed by Florida Gov. Jeb Bush did not include funds for a new state prison slated to be built in Suwannee County.

This is disappointing news to those looking forward to the many jobs the prison was expected to bring.

Johnny Wooley, Suwannee County Coordinator, says, "In all the rural counties, jobs and economic development is a big issue in order to try to improve our tax base here in the rural counties."

Suwannee County officials expected the prison to be built here, but instead funds for the state prisons will go towards other facilities throughout the state of Florida.

Florida's inmate population is expected to increase to more than 90,000 by 2008, but state Rep. Dwight Stansel, who's been pushing for the new prison, says it's simply cheaper to add more beds to existing correctional facilities.

The Legislature is funding more than 3,000 new beds.

Rep. Dwight Stansel, (F) FL District 11, says, "It's difficult to advocate for a high cost prison when you can build beds at prisons and other institutions for a lot less. I think it will be built eventually."

Stansel says he will continue to lobby for the prison in Suwannee County, adding he's confident it will be built, it's just a matter of when.

Prison construction in this fiscal year's budget for north Florida includes 131 beds at the Taylor Correctional Institution in Taylor County.