USP Letcher: Reviewing the Latest Round of EIS comments

[NOTE: Back in 2015, the EF! Newswire posted a story about the early phase of this effort, “Between Sludge Pond and Old Growth” which gives a background and beautiful photos of the area in Central Appalachia where this prison is proposed to be built. And just yesterday, the Marshall Project published a great update on the current political context of the corruption surrounding the prison’s approval. Check these these out as well for a full picture of the fight to stop this prison.]

USP Letcher: Reviewing the Latest Round of EIS comments

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Hiking in the nearby Lilley Cornett Woods

Last week, on September 29, 2017, the U.S. Bureau of Prisons BOP closed the public comment period on it’s “Final Supplemental Revised Environmental Impacts Statement.” While we at the Campaign to Fight Toxic Prison will be continuing the effort to push for the $444 million in public money for this prison to be removed from the federal budget until that process is finalized by Congress, we also wanted to take a moment to reflect on the past month of organizing around the latest EIS and share what we accomplished so that it can be built on.

Any day now, the BOP could issue a Record of Decision (ROD), which would mean that the $444 million would be accessible to them, land acquisitions could move forward, and bulldozers could start rolling. But there can be no doubting that they will face a groundswell of opposition from all sides. Letcher County residents involved with the Letcher Governance Project (LGP) have risen to the challenge. Check out a recent radio interview with an LGP organizer here.

Through an alliance of local and national organizing efforts, we’ve been able to reach thousands of Letcher residents through mutliple mass mailings, emails and phone-bank follow up. In this latest round we reached out directly to approximately 9,000 households.

In addition, we continued developing our prisoner contacts, mailing in letters to several hundred individuals throughout the federal system, which we know reach thousands through being shared around the cell blocks.

We have guaranteed the BOP that this will not be an easy road for them, now that their own Department of Justice has declared the prison is no longer needed, and the support of U.S. Representative Hal Rogers can only go so far when his own constituents are turning on him.

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Local Roxana resident and landowner Mitch Whitaker, quote from Op-Ed peice in Lexington Herald-Leader

The past several years have seen successes of a long hard struggle to reduce reliance on prisons and reform racist sentencing disparities for drug convictions. Prison populations have been on a steady decline, but building this prison could be seen as a renewed commitment to the dark days of tough-on-crime politics and mass incarceration without any end in sight.

With that in mind, we are providing you detailed information which was submitted by lawyers, biologists, engineers and industry experts that have laid a foundation on which to fight this prison plan.

While these documents are now in the EIS Administrative Record and as such could be used in potential litigation, they are also the grounds for organizers and activists to build a well-informed escalation in our efforts. If this prison is approved and funded, it will likely be challenged in court, but we know that can move slow, and companies chomping at the bit for these massive construction contracts may choose to move forward on breaking ground despite the legal proceedings.

If, like us, you are committed to defeating this project, we ask that you review these documents and prepare for the grassroots organizing and direct action efforts that may need to come next, if the BOP opts to disregard these positions which clearly negate the stated need and justification for this prison:

1. Comments on behalf of the Abolitionist Law Center (ALC) and the Letcher Governance Project (LGP) concerning the final supplemental revised environmental impact statement (“FSREIS)

2. Comments by prison industry expert and former associate warden at federal prisons, including additional back-up exhibits

3.  Comments by civil engineer with more than thirty years of experience in water resources, pollution, solid waste and hazardous waste fate, mitigation, migration and management

4. Comments by an endangered bat biologist from Letcher County, who has studied Indiana, Northern long-eared (NLEB), and Gray bats for 17 years

In additional to these expert comments, we also succeeded in generating thousands of comments from the general public thanks to our allies at SierraRise, Kentuckians for the Commonwealth, the Prison Ecology Project, and others who helped amplify our social media efforts over the past month. In particular, RootsAction has an online campaign up directed at Congress which has already generated over 8,000 letters. Please keep these in circulation!

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