Times are hard in the eastern Kentucky coalfields with a collapsing coal industry and few economic prospects. And if the region’s leaders get their way, thousands of people will soon be doing hard time in a new state-of-the-art federal penitentiary.
On March 12th at the the Letcher County Central High School, home of the Cougars, the U.S. Department of Justice and the Federal Bureau of Prisons will hold a public meeting to begin the exploration of building a penitentiary and prison camp in this rural mountain area known for banjo strumming and a dichotomy of rich land and poor people whose economic and social future has been ruled by an extraction industry. The two-and-half- hour meeting will mark another step towards the Appalachian region becoming one continuous prison town. Over a dozen facilities now blanket the region, bringing a different sort of extraction industry.