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End of an era

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By Stephen Lega

The last group of inmates have left Marion Adjustment Center.
The Kentucky Department of Corrections data shows that on Sept. 16, 14 inmates were being housed at the private prison in St. Mary.
As of Sept. 17, MAC was no longer listed in the state’s daily count reports (available here: http://goo.gl/gHhMz).
I apologize for not reporting this sooner. I had the information for last week’s paper, but among the various stories we juggle, I forgot to actually type it.
In early September, state officials told me that Sept. 30 would be the final day inmates would be housed at MAC.
Nancy Lyon, who has been a ministerial volunteer at the prison for several years, had called us to suggest writing a story on the last inmate. Knowing that the Enterprise had written a story about the first inmates at the prison back in 1986, we thought that would be a good idea to write about the last ones, too.
We contacted MAC, and they notified us that they would forward the request to Corrections Corporation of America (MAC’s parent company). I never heard back about that request, so unfortunately, that story won’t happen.
I also know there are some CCA employees who remain at the prison to attend to some final details. The last time I asked, MAC officials informed me that they had been advised not to disclose exactly how many employees remain at the prison for security reasons.
For what it’s worth, the people I dealt with at MAC were always professional and courteous. That was true of both employees and inmates.
I also can’t help being reminded that we are at the time of year when MAC hosted its annual Human Kindness Organization (HKO) day at the prison. Clients from Marion County Industries and similar organizations in neighboring counties would go to the prison for a day of fun. I watched inmates run booths, play games and dance with people with varying degrees of physical and mental disability.
MAC celebrated its 20th anniversary shortly after I moved to Lebanon. I learned about the history of the grounds as a seminary and a commune before it became a prison. In that initial visit, I learned about a number of programs offered to inmates in hopes that they would have skills to stay out once they returned home.
Since then, I’ve been back to MAC for a variety of reasons. I was there during a visit by the Archbishop of Louisville. I’ve spoken with inmates involved in drug and alcohol treatment programs, in vocational training programs, even in a program to provide obedience training to dogs. My girlfriend even adopted one of the dogs, a Yorkie poo named Angus.
MAC contributed to the community in a number of ways, but at least for now, the state has decided it does not see a need to continue using it.
The prison faced a lot of opposition when it first came to Marion County. I also know lots of people are sad to see it close, although there are people who have questioned the need for private prisons since they first opened.
Regardless, my hope is that all of the prison employees have found or will soon find work elsewhere.