The Biden Administration’s move away from the use of private prisons will shutter a facility in the western Oklahoma town of Hinton that houses federal inmates.
The private prison company The GEO Group Inc. will close its 1,940-bed Great Plains Correctional Facility in Hinton at the end of May. The facility is used to house inmates with the U.S. Bureau of Prisons who have been convicted of federal crimes.
The closure comes after President Joe Biden signed an executive order in January directing the U.S. Attorney General not to renew contracts to house federal inmates at private prisons.
About 230 people will lose their jobs at the Hinton prison as a part of the closure, according to a layoff notice the company sent to state and local officials last week.
Great Plains Correctional Facility is the largest employer in Hinton, a community of about 3,200 people in Caddo County, said town administrator Shanon Pack.
Hinton will lose revenue from utility bills and fees generated from the prison, as well as sales tax revenue generated by people who work at the prison and shop and dine in town.
“When you’re such a small town, that’s a huge impact,” Pack said.
The prison generates about $900,000 a year for the town of Hinton in the form of a $1.25 daily per-prisoner prisoner fee and rent the company pays to the Hinton Economic Development Authority, said town economic development director Jason Garner. The town uses the money to fund maintenance for city roads and utilities.
Blake Davis, president of GEO Group’s Secure Services division, told investors during a conference call in February that he expected the federal government’s move to phase out the use of private prisons could affect contracts the company had to house prisoners at as many as six facilities across the United States, including the Hinton facility.
Since the late 1990s, the Bureau of Prisons has used private facilities to help ease pressure on overcrowded federal prisons. But the bureau has seen a decline in federal prison populations over the past several years that has been accelerated by the COVID-19 pandemic, Davis said during the call.
“Given the President’s executive order and the decline in federal prison populations, we are preparing operationally for the potential that additional contracts with the Bureau of Prisons may not be renewed when their current option periods expire,” he said.
Geo Group did not respond to questions about future plans for the Great Plains prison.
The company has told officials in Hinton that it will seek new contracts with other government agencies to eventually house more prisoners there, Davis said.
The GEO Group is a publicly-traded company that runs private prisons across North America, the United Kingdom, South Africa and Australia. The company also operates a 2,682-bed prison in Lawton that contracts with the Oklahoma Department of Corrections to house inmates in the state prison system.