State Officials Wrestle With Financial Plan For New Lansing Prison

Jan 2, 2018

Updated on Thursday, Jan. 04 at 3:45 p.m:

Members of the State Finance Council agreed Thursday to delay consideration of a proposal from Gov. Sam Brownback's administration to hire private prison operator CoreCivic Inc.

Original Story:

State officials are set to approve a plan to build a new prison in Lansing, but some people still question how it will be financed. 

Earlier this year the Kansas Legislature approved a plan to build a new prison in Lansing--but it left the decision about how to finance it to Gov. Sam Brownback and eight legislative leaders, known as the State Finance Council. The plan they are considering would have a private prison operator, CoreCivic Inc., build the new prison and then lease it to the state for 20 years.

Tennessee-based CoreCivic is one of the nation's largest private prison operators and has come under fire in other states for poor performance and noncompliance with contracted requirements.

House Minority Leader Jim Ward, of Wichita, is one of two Democrats on the State Finance Council. He says he agrees that it's time to replace the aging prison, but he's worried about the negative effects of leasing from a private company.

"You might get a quick bang for your buck in the first couple of years, long-term you start to see serious problems in the services that are expected," he says.

A state audit of the lease-purchase agreement done earlier this year suggested that it would be more expensive than traditional bonding, but the CEO of CoreCivic says the auditors made key assumptions about the project that were not completely fleshed out.

Another legislative committee that reviews building projects also recommended the state should solicit new bids with traditional bond financing.

The State Finance Council is scheduled to meet Jan. 4 to make its final decision.


Follow Brian Grimmett on Twitter @briangrimmett .


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