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A 1,300 acre site used for a school associated with the Church of Scientology has won initial backing from a federal committee for a prison site to house 400 minimum security inmates.
The Executive Committee of the Federal Bureau of Prisons meeting in Tallahasse, Fla., was reported Friday to have chosen the site for further consideration for a prison. The prison would have a staff of about 140 and a $4.6-million annual budget.
Alice Propes, real estate agent for the Delphian Foundation, said the foundation wants to expand to a larger facility, nearer a metropolitan area and university library.
The foundation is asking for $7 million for the hilltop acreage near Sheridan which includes a 100,000-square-foot main building, support buildings and new gymnasium.
Bob Volkner, community programs manager in the Seattle office of the Bureau of Prisons, said he thought that a congressional appropriation for the facility to be called Sheridan Correctional Institute could be approved "within months."
"With the prison population going up, we would pursue this hot and heavy," he said. "The courts were quite a bit distressed to see McNeil Island closed."
McNeil Island, in the Seatte area, was closed in March 1981 and had a population of about 1,000. The prisoners at the new facility would be at a lower security level and come from Utah, western Montana, eastern Washington, Alaska and northern California.
They would be "just above trusty level," Volkner said.
"There will be no gun towers, no need for cells, and some vocational training will be offered," he said.
John Atkins, news secretary for Rep. Les AuCoin, D-Ore., said the executive committee decided on "a two-week process of making more specific plans" about the prison. He said experts would be brought in to develop a step-by-step plan to follow to ultimately acquire the site and the regional director now has authority to proceed with an investigation of state laws and the expected impact on the area.
Yamhill County officials report support for the correctional institute is strong in the area since the unemployment rate has climbed to about 20 percent with the closing of several lumber mills in the past few years.
Volkner said they would "hire as many" people as possible from the local area but key prison officials would be brought in from other parts of the country.