Appalachia Sees 29 New Prisons Since 1989, Many on Environmentally Degraded Sites – Esquire

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Since 1989, 29 state and federal prisons have been built there, often on environmentally degraded sites.
Not long ago, the nonprofit newsroom 100 Days In Appalachia called attention to a dismal local phenomenon. The region is plagued by unemployment, a still-blazing opioid epidemic, and the environmental degradation of decades of unregulated, or barely regulated, extraction industries. To which, the folks at 100 Days pointed out, has been added the region’s popularity as a spot to site prisons.
Since 1989, 29 state and federal prisons have been built in Appalachia. And the report finds an interesting correlation of circumstances.
Mountaintop removal was one of the most environmentally grotesque techniques ever devised for pulling material out of the earth. And it is emblematic of a region that has been used as a dumping ground for toxic waste, addictive drugs, and now, prisons.
One of the main drivers of this phenomenon is Rep. Hal Rogers, Republican of Kentucky, who’s brought three prisons to his part of the world. Rogers is 83 years old, and he’s been in Congress since god was a boy. He’s trafficked in more pork than most of Iowa. However, in 2019, against considerable odds, the people of Letcher County in Kentucky managed to kill a proposed new federal prison for which Rogers had spent a decade pulling every string he had. But local activists went to court. They focused on the fact that the prospective prison would be on an old mountaintop removal site and close to a toxic sludge pond, and then moved on to arguing that building a new $518 million prison at a time when federal incarceration rates were dropping was a ridiculous amount of money to pay just to make sure prisoners could live on top of a chemistry set. The project died.
There are hundreds of places like this in the country, small corners where the big corners stash their poisons. They need representation.

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