Central Mississippi officials want to reopen private prison

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WALNUT GROVE, Miss. (AP) - Officials in a central Mississippi town want the state prison system to reopen a closed private prison there instead of spending money to rebuild part of the Mississippi State Penitentiary at Parchman.

The state closed the Walnut Grove Correctional Facility in 2016, but the Clarion Ledger reports the state is still paying $97.4 million in debt associated with the prison's construction.

Mississippi Department of Corrections Commissioner Pelicia Hall asked lawmakers in September for $22 million to rebuild Unit 29, one of the prison units at Parchman.

But Leake County officials suggest the state should instead shift some inmates to a reopened Walnut Grove.

Halls says she will defer to legislators on the decision, but says either rebuilding Unit 29 or contracting with a private prison operator would be costly.