Top Kansas lawmakers approve building new prison

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TOPEKA, Kan. (WIBW) — Kansas is moving forward with a plan to have the nation's largest private-prison operator build a new state prison.

Top Kansas legislators gave their final approval Wednesday to the project during a meeting with Republican Gov. Sam Brownback. A state law authorizing the new prison in Lansing required a final go-ahead from the Legislature's top eight leaders.

"It just needs work., the place is crumbling down, it's been there 155 years and it needs this," Brownback said. "I think it is a very important thing for a long term future of this state."

Tennessee-based CoreCivic will build a new, 2,400-bed prison to replace the state's oldest and largest prison in Lansing.

Kansas will pay for the project over 20 years through a lease with the company and spend a total $362 million. The state will oversee day-to-day operations.

Opposition to the proposal said they held concerns regarding privatization of prisons in Kansas.

"There is a paragraph in there that says no privatization of the operations of the prison function can occur. Senator Hensley and myself are going to take that one step further just to make sure that there's no misunderstanding in the future," Republican Senator Jim Denning said. "We are going to begin to produce a bill very shortly that very clearly says, that there will be no privatization of prisons in Kansas"

The legislative leaders split 5-3 over the project. The department has faced skepticism about whether the lease-purchase deal is the most cost-effective option.