Capron prison work recognized by DEQ

Published 9:24 am Saturday, April 21, 2012

By Stephen H. Cowles/Contributing Writer

CAPRON—Where there was once a worn-out place that formerly housed lawbreakers, now there’s farmland. For the recycling work done on the old Southampton Correctional Center, the Virginia Department of Corrections received state recognition a couple of weeks ago.

Specifically, the agency was one of five gold level winners of the 2012 Governor’s Environmental Excellence Awards. Four silver and four bronze level winners were also noted. All of these were given at the Environmental Virginia Symposium in Lexington.

Tony Parnell of the Division of Institutions for the VADOC recently explained in detail about the project.

“Southampton Correctional Center was closed in January of 2009 and due to its age and costs associated with upkeep and repairs warranted the demolition of a majority of the buildings onsite,” said Parnell. “The VADOC intended for this deconstruction project to serve as an example to other state agencies to demonstrate the cost effectiveness of environmentally responsible deconstruction.”

The center was located on Old Belfield Road in Capron, about 20 miles east of Emporia. The site was near several work and detention centers for men and women and also the Deerfield Correctional Center.

So that the deconstruction could be efficiently completed, said Parnell, there was no specific deadline to complete the work.

He added, “Before the project began, initial vendor consultations indicated that the demolition would cost over $5 million and would not be as environmentally sensitive as the department wished. Therefore, VADOC embarked on a Deconstruction and Recycling Project at the facility in an effort to be environmentally responsible, reduce costs to the state and taxpayers, and to provide “green” training to offenders for reentry.”

This included using current staff and equipment of the time where feasible, and also gave offenders re-entry training.

All in all, there was “approximate savings of over $5.38 million to the State of Virginia and to taxpayers,” he said.

Parnell also said, “Agribusiness (a unit within VADOC) manages the land recently converted. Currently the land has been planted in grasses to stabilize the site and increase the organic content and nutrient value of the soils. During the next growing season the land can be planted with one of several options, which may include soybeans, corn or feed for agency owned cattle.”