New prison offers boost for region's economy

 

Ryan Poe

Columbus Dispatch

http://www.cdispatch.com/business/article.asp?aid=7665

 

September 1, 2010

 

ALICEVILLE, Ala. -- Mississippians and Alabamians packed the Aliceville, Ala., City Hall Tuesday to learn about job opportunities at the city's new federal women's prison.

 

The $195 million Federal Correctional Institute at Aliceville will employ 300-320 people, many from the area, said FCI Activation Coordinator Cathryne Litcher.

 

The FCI will also contribute about $40 million annually to the local and regional economy, the Federal Bureau of Prisons estimated.

 

The prison is 62 percent complete and should be finished in summer 2011, said Litcher, who called the facility a "wonderful benefit to the community."

 

The facility will house 1,500 medium- and 250 minimum-security adult female offenders.

 

FCI Aliceville, located on Highway 14 between Aliceville and Pickensville, will have double fences, likely with electronic detection systems, mostly cell-type housing, a wide variety of work and treatment programs, and a relatively high staff-to-inmate ratio.

 

Hiring will begin after the 2012 budget is finalized, Litcher noted. Starting salaries range from $20,324 to $113,735, depending on the level of expertise required. Raises of about $600-$5,000 are given annually.

 

The new prison is a boon for many out-of-work locals or those like 20-year-old Columbus resident Sheree Howard, who are looking for a career position.

"I'm a single mom supporting a 4-year-old and myself," she said at the meeting Tuesday. "I need the money."

 

The economic recession makes the job seem that much better, said Tim Robinson, who was laid off from a Tuscaloosa, Ala., box factory.

"I got two kids," he said. "Unemployment doesn't take care of them. I'm working check to check."

 

At the meeting, Litcher told the standing-room-only crowd about hiring requirements, including age and citizenship requirements, training, physical examinations and interviews.

"We're trying to educate the candidates and prospective applicants about who we are and the basic qualifications for securing these positions," Litcher said.

The Federal Bureau of Prisons cannot hire anyone after they turn 37 except qualified veterans, she said.

 

Prospective employees must undergo a background investigation of criminal records and credit history. "Start getting (your credit) in order. You just can't have any delinquent bills," Litcher said.

New hires must also be U.S. citizens in most cases and be interviewed by an employment panel.

 

Once selected, recruits will have to complete 80 hours of institution familiarization and 120 hours of specialized training at the bureau's residential training center in Glynco, Ga.

Specialized training includes a physical abilities test. Employees must drag a 75-pound dummy three minutes continuously for three minutes for a minimum 694 feet, among other endurance exercises.

Types of positions available include administrative assistance, material handlers, medical professionals, laundry workers, correctional officers, case managers, teachers, chaplains, sports specialists, psychologists, accountants and technicians.