Details of $300 million proposal to replace 150-year-old Lansing jail revealed

LANSING, Kan. -- Discussions continued Thursday at the Kansas State Capitol about building a new Lansing Correctional Institution and how taxpayers would pay for it.

There’s a lot of history in the facility that started housing prisoners 150 years ago. But it’s not history people in Lansing are as concerned with preserving as the city’s future.

Earlier this year, the Kansas Department of Corrections started asking companies for their plans to build and finance a new Lansing jail, keeping about the same capacity of 2,400 inmates.

On Thursday, legislators in Topeka debated the department’s choice -- Nashville-based Core Civic -- and a 20-year lease to build and maintain the prison that would cost taxpayers about $15 million per year.

A Department of Corrections statement said key features of the proposal include:

  • Two housing units: a 1,920-bed maximum- and medium-security unit and a 512-bed minimum-security unit.
  • Medical services (improved design for aging population), food services, spiritual life and staff support areas.
  • Indoor and outdoor recreation areas, ample site circulation and parking and improved lighting and security.
  • Modern utility systems that provide significant cost and energy savings.
  • Capacity for future expansion.
  • Local maintenance staff, locksmiths and professional services.
  • Energy saving shell design with top-of-the-line roofing system and highly insulated walls systems.
  • Security systems with triple-biased magnetic door switches and enhanced video surveillance systems.
  • Layout controls the movement of inmate population.

The corrections department also said a moderate prison would allow them to operate the facility with significantly fewer employees.

“Modernization, fewer jobs, I think there’s some concern about that, but we are waiting and seeing just like everyone else,” Lansing spokesperson Ken Miller said.

Construction began on the facility formerly known as Kansas State Penitentiary during the Civil War. Neighborhoods formed around the prison that form Lansing today.

“It’s obviously one of our biggest -- if not the biggest -- employers in town," Miller said. "The prison came before the city, so it’s been a huge part of what Lansing is all about."

Lansing’s Historical Museum, which sits on the grounds of what’s now known as Lansing Correctional, chronicles the story of the 150-year-old prison from the time prisoners worked the coal mines alongside town residents.

A sign out front says, “Know the past, shape the future.”

“We knew there was going to come a day when what you see today may not be there and it may be replaced by a different type of facility,” Miller said.

Justin Collins, who will get to see what’s on the horizon for Lansing from his front yard, said he hopes it doesn’t change the city’s landscape.

“I personally like the view, the old school," Collins said. "So I’m hoping if they build a new one, they keep that stone rock look. Any time I think of a prison I don’t think of a steel fortress.”

State Lawmakers would need to approve the Department of Corrections deal with Core Civic next month. The company said the new prison would take two years to build.

The Kansas Department of Corrections would continue to operate the facility and own the building at the end of the 20-year lease.