09/28/05 — Base prison closing date still not set

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Base prison closing date still not set

By News-Argus Staff
Published in News on September 28, 2005 1:49 PM

Officials at the Federal Prison Camp at Seymour Johnson Air Force Base still do not have an exact closure date for the facility, but say they are continuing preparations for closure.

The Bureau of Prisons officials announced the upcoming closure of the camp as part of an ongoing effort to reduce costs.

Inmates from the Wayne County facility are gradually being transferred to other prisons, officials said.

Special Assistant Larry Whitman said 417 prisoners remain at the prison, and while they will continue their departures, most will stay until closer to the mid-February to March 2006 deadline, which is about when officials expect the facility to officially close its doors.

When the official closure announcement was made, Warden Gary Winkler said eventually the number of inmates at the facility will be reduced significantly, leaving only enough personnel to maintain the facility and complete support work for the base. About 150 inmates are needed to carry the workload in both places, which includes landscaping and other duties, he said.

Prison officials hope to keep as many inmates at the camp as possible for now, and said numbers will not decrease dramatically until much closer to the deadline unless the number of staff on campus becomes limited.

Winkler said as long as enough staff are employed with the prison, there will be no hurry to transfer inmates. In December, however, dramatic decreases will occur as the deadline approaches, leaving only around 50 inmates to complete unfinished projects.

Before the official closure, prison officials will hold a celebration to allow former employees, current staff and the community to say goodbye to the institution, which has been operating in the county since the early 1990s.