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Oswego unit provides options for housing elderly inmates

by Todd Fertig last modified Oct 07, 2013 02:44 PM
Governor Sam Brownback, along with about 180 guests, celebrated on Feb. 1 the opening of a specialized prison facility in Oswego, which will bring relief to system overcrowding, provide needed services to aging inmates, and give an economic boost to the southeast Kansas corridor.
Oswego unit provides options for housing elderly inmates

Gov. Brownback attends the opening of a unit for elderly inmates.


Brownback, three state legislators, local elected officials, and several administrators of the Kansas Department of Corrections (KDOC) attended the ribbon cutting for the Southeast Unit of the El Dorado Correctional Facility, located in the 1,821-member community.

Brownback praised Oswego for its support of the new facility and heralded its economic implications. Oswego formerly was home to a work-camp program, and Brownback said that within the refurbished buildings will be jobs for about 55 employees.

“We’ve had great support from the community, which we knew we would,” Brownback said. “We know this community will embrace this program just the way they did the boot camp.

“We know it’s not about the buildings. It’s the people who make something like this successful. It’s the people who say ‘I believe in my job. I believe in my community. And I believe in the people within this prison, that I can reach out to them, and we can all make each other better people.’”
 
The Oswego unit has been designed to house aging inmates who have limited mobility and require special care. Correct Care Solutions (CCS) is contracted by the state to provide the medical care required by the special population.

The 15 members of the unit’s health staff will include a doctor, psychiatrist, and activity therapist, as well as nurses, physical therapists and mental healthcare staff. The facility also provides access to dental, vision and other specialists as needed.

The unit will house up to 232 medium-custody inmates who require the special services. It will also house up to 32 minimum-custody inmates who will provide a labor force to handle many of the tasks around the facility.

“Having all the medical services together at one location makes the care for this specialized population much more cost effective,” said Viola Riggin, director of health care services for the KDOC. “We are able to perform services for one of our inmates at about $5 less per day than the national average.”

The annual budget for the Oswego facility is $2.4 million, not including the contracted services of CCS and Aramark, a food-service private contractor.

Residents began moving into the facility in December, and by Feb. 18 it is expected to house 172. Final renovation will eventually allow for 264 residents. Early reviews of the facility have been positive, said Dale
Call, public information officer for the El Dorado Correctional Facility (EDCF).

“What we’re hearing from the residents is that they really like being away from what they call the ‘youngsters,’ who make life difficult for them,” said Call. “This facility has everything within close proximity, whereas at some of our other facilities, they might have to go the distance of a city block or more just to get to where they need to go.”

Call said that the living arrangements are different from what most of the residents are accustomed. The living area is one large room divided into cubicles with single-level beds – an environment very different from traditional cells.

Corrections Secretary Ray Roberts told the audience that he was charged by Brownback a couple of years ago to find a way to meet the needs of the aging population, with several aspects to consider.

“The governor asked me to investigate where we might have an empty building or facility to provide a safe, effective place for our geriatric population, both to move them away from the general population for their sake, and also to vacate some beds,” said Roberts. “And he also asked me to take into consideration where there might be a community with a particularly high rate of unemployment.

“We think we’ve found a good place to locate this special population, and we have to thank this community for embracing this initiative - we couldn’t have done this without your help and support.”

Roberts said opening up Oswego has allowed KDOC to take in the state’s few remaining inmates that were being housed in county jails.

Senator Jeff King of Independence, Rep. Will Carpenter of El Dorado and Rep. Richard Proehl of Parsons celebrated the economic implications of the new development with their constituents.

“This is just fantastic for this community and for this area of the state,” said Proehl. “We lost all those jobs when the boot camp closed down, so it is just great that now we can utilize this facility again and people are moving here, bringing families, renting or buying homes. Look at this crowd. People are excited about this, and they will support it.”

“This is really going to help the prosperity in this region,” said Brownback. “It’s not just about prospering financially. It’s about prospering as people, as families.

“It’s been a tough time for southeast Kansas. But this is a hopeful season. We can lift out of this. So let’s take advantage of these good things when they happen, and let’s put the pedal to the metal and make this area a great place to have a business and to raise a family."

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