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[UPDATE] Jefferson Correctional Institution Will Officially Stay Open

By: Eyewitness News; Angelica Alvarez Email
By: Eyewitness News; Angelica Alvarez Email

[UPDATE] - March 5, 2012

Tallahassee - Rep. Leonard Bembry, D-Greenville says, "At this point in time, it's probably official that JCI is saved."

Rep. Bembry has been in the fight to save Jefferson Correctional Institution since the beginning, when in January the Department of Corrections announced it was closing seven prisons and four work camps across the state of Florida. JCI was on that list, but not anymore.

In a Chief Budget Chair Meeting at the capitol, JCI was officially thrown a lifeline when Governor Rick Scott and the Secretary of the Department of Corrections, Ken Tucker, agreed to keep the prison open.

Wendy Bitner is one of the lobbyists who fought for JCI at the capitol. She says, "The department agreed that it would make a significant negative impact on our county and decided to keep it open."

That negative impact would have translated into millions. County leaders say they would have taken a more than $30 million hit if they lost JCI. But Rep. Bembry says no amount of money can compare to the amount of spirit of those who fought to save their livelihood.

He says, "I have never seen a community pull together like Jefferson County did and not just the people, the business community, the leadership and of course the prison itself."

He goes on to say that keeping JCI open was always less about the money and more about preserving the lives of those who need Jefferson Correctional to survive.

The Department of Corrections budget will now include funding JCI.

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Jefferson County, FL [UPDATE] - 11:47 p.m. -- Feb. 15, 2012

The Senate voted to keep the Jefferson Correctional Institution open.
and allotted 10-million dollars in the budget to keep the facility running.

The voices of Jefferson County were heard at the Florida Capitol. Today the senate budget committee voted to spare Jefferson Correctional Institution.

Kirk Reams, the Jefferson County Clerk says, "We're hopeful, this is a good step for us, we think this is a step in the right direction toward saving JCI."

The senate budget committee handed down a vote to save Jefferson Correctional Institution this budget year.

Reams says, "Senator Montford proposed an amendment in the Senate Budget Committee to include JCI in the upcoming budget year."

The committee unanimously agreed, and voted to set aside $10 million to fund the prison. That money will come out of the Department of Corrections budget. This decision saves almost 200 jobs, jobs that correctional officers have been fighting to keep since the Department of Corrections announced the closure in January.

JCI correctional officer, Sammy Rutherford says, "As an officer I'm glad I'm not going to have to go anywhere else to look for a job. That prison really means everything to Jefferson County."

Rep. Leonard Bembry, D-Greenville, says, "There's a lot of people that have my admiration and appreciation for looking at small counties and realizing the healing value and know we're talking about not just money but people's lives."

The senate budget committee also set aside $50,000 for an economic impact study. This will take a closer look at the financial impact the loss of JCI would have on Jefferson County.

When the county conducted its own study, they came up with a financial hit of $33 million.

That study is scheduled to be conducted by July first. In total, the Department of Corrections announced the closure of 11 facilities throughout Florida. That study will also include the impact of those closures in their communities.

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Jefferson County, FL -- February 15, 2012 --

The prison in Jefferson County will now stay open.
That announcement came down just before four this evening.

The Senate Budget Committee voted to keep the Jefferson Correctional Institution open.
and allotted 10-million dollars in the budget to keep the facility running.

This money saves close to two hundred jobs that correctional officers have been fighting to keep since the Department of Corrections announced the closure last month.

The Senate also approved a study to be done before July 1 that will look into what the exact economic impact would be if JCI closed.
The prison is the county's largest employer.


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