In July 2016, the Letcher Governance Project filed a Freedom of Information Act request to the federal Bureau of Prisons. The request was for all correspondence between Congressman Hal Rogers's office and the federal Bureau of Prisons pertaining to the proposed USP Letcher prison project.
BOP fulfilled the request in February 2017. It is published in its entirety below.
While mostly administrative and procedural in nature, the files do reveal a few key details about proposed USP Letcher that community members have been so far unable to obtain through their local government and through Congressman Rogers's office.
Some of these takeaways are:
- In May 2016 (page 13), a draft Record of Decision was written by officials within the Bureau of Prisons. The timing of this draft is questionable; it was written mere weeks after the comment period closed for the Revised Environmental Impact Statement (REIS). This comment period generated thousands of comments both in favor and in opposition to the prison. It is our belief that the BOP would have been unable to review all of these comments and subsequently issue an accurate and informed Record of Decision within three weeks.
- The fact that the draft Record of Decision was never issued highlights the work that community members have done so far to resist USP Letcher. For example, landowner and community member Mitch Whitaker refused to let the BOP use his land for the construction of the prison. This forced the BOP to go back and revise the REIS, thereby delaying a Record of Decision.
- According to an email from May 16,2016 (page 8), the BOP determined that, "While comments were received on the revised-FEIS, none of them were determined to be substantive." This was written after the BOP received thousands of comments both in favor and in opposition to the prison.
- According to emails from May 2016 (pages 8-9), it could take up to 4-6 years for contracts to be awarded and construction to be completed on USP Letcher. This is in addition to the 12-18 month-long process of land acquisition. This timeline is important for two reasons:
- Community members have been unable to get solid, coherent answers from their leaders on where the development process is at, and how long it will take; and
- Congressman Hal Rogers has said that utility construction would begin in Spring 2016; this process has not yet been initiated.
We invite all stakeholders and community members to review and share the documents.