Scott State Prison in Baldwin to close next month

The Frank C. Scott Jr. State Prison in Hardwick will close Aug. 15, saving the state up to $10 million annually, according to the Georgia Department of Corrections.

The facility, built in 1937 as part of Central State Hospital and later opened as a medium security prison in 1981, currently houses 1,784 inmates and employs 281 people, said Kristen Stancil, a spokeswoman for the DOC.

The state is closing the prison because of its age, officials said. Most of the inmates will be transferred to Coastal State Prison in Garden City, which has a capacity of 1,578 inmates, Stancil said. The remaining inmates from Scott will be divided among other state prisons.

In addition, Coastal State Prison will be opening Fast Track units next month. Fast Track units are state-of-the-art facilities that can house up to 256 inmates, she said.

“Typically, they can operate with fewer staff members,” Stancil said.

All the current Scott staff will be assigned either to Coastal State or other prisons in the Milledgeville area, Stancil said. Scott is one of three state prisons there. In addition, there are 10 within 45 minutes driving distance from Milledgeville.

“(Current employees) will be moved into the same or similar positions,” Stancil said, adding that she didn’t anticipate any layoffs.

Tara Peters, president and CEO of the Milledgeville-Baldwin County Chamber of Commerce, said the state has planned to close Scott for a while, but the chamber didn’t know it would be closing so soon.

Peters said she hopes most of the employees stay within commuting distance of the county to minimize the economic impact of closing the facility.

“I’m sure it will have (an economic impact),” Peters said. “Any time an industry closes, it certainly has an affect economically. We certainly hope (the DOC) finds jobs for the people who are displaced, and we hope they spend their money in Milledgeville and Baldwin County. ... It’s a blessing when they can keep their homes in the area.”

Peters said she didn’t know how much of an economic impact the decision to close the prison will have on the county, but she said small businesses near the prison, such as restaurants and convenience stores, would be hit the hardest.

“They are sure to be affected,” she said.

In a news release, state Corrections Commissioner Brian Owens said: “We take our mission of protecting and serving the public very seriously. That mission will not be compromised as we divest ourselves of old, inefficient infrastructure.”

Stancil said future plans for Scott haven’t been determined. “I’m not sure what’s on the table for it,” she said.

Georgia’s Department of Corrections is the fifth-largest prison system in the country.