Plan to house illegal immigrant convicts in Baldwin prison is dead
By Jim Harger
March 03, 2010, 6:38PM

BALDWIN -- A proposal to house illegal immigrants convicted of crimes in a former state "punk prison" is dead, according to the Florida firm that owns the North Lake Correctional Facility.

The federal Bureau of Prisons has canceled its solicitation for prison space due to a funding shortfall, according to a news release issued by the GEO Group.

Sandy Crandall, president of the Lake County Chamber of Commerce and Tourist Center, said she was disappointed by the news.

"I just have to be hopeful that they've got something else in mind, a Plan B," Crandall said. "We'll certainly support them any way we can. They've got a huge investment there. "

GEO has nearly completed a $60 million project which expanded the facility from 530 beds to 1,225 with an eye toward the federal contract.

Last November, federal prison officials were given the red carpet treatment when they visited Baldwin to assess its suitability for the contract.

Community leaders had hoped GEO would land the federal contract and bring about 500 jobs to the town, located 85 miles north of Grand Rapids.

When it closed in 2005, the prison employed 220. The prison opened in 1998 as a "punk" prison for as many as 480 13- to- 19-year-old boys and young men.

GEO officials said they would continue to market the the Baldwin site to federal, state and local detention facilities around the country. ...