State to sell 1,000 acres of prime land next to prison

Proposal follows move to shut down prison farm.

For sale: More than 1,000 acres of prime land, ready for development.

One hitch: The neighborhood is full of felons.

Tucked into the state budget proposal from the Kasich administration is a plan to sell 1,053 acres off State Routes 741 and Ohio 63 and Hamilton Road.

The budget bill says the administration may sell the land at a public auction or through a sealed bid process to the highest bidder. Proceeds from the sale will be put into a fund used to retire bond debt on adult and juvenile corrections facilities, the budget bill says.

Last year, the Ohio Department of Rehabilitation and Correction decided to shut down its prison farms, which had been operating and providing job skills to inmates since 1868. The department auctioned off cattle but needs legislative approval to sell the farmland, which covers 12,500 acres at eight prisons.

Stuart Hudson, DRC managing director for fiscal and health care operations, said the land outside the Lebanon prison is highly sought by developers.

Warren County officials have been studying the best way to develop some 6,500 acres of prime real estate as the Dayton and Cincinnati metro areas merge together along the Interstate-75 corridor.

Just west of Lebanon Correctional and Warren Correctional is the Miami Valley Gaming racino along Interstate 75. To the north is the Otterbein Senior Lifestyle Choices campus. Plans call for a 4,500-home development and road improvements in that area.

The Ohio Department of Administrative Services, which will handle the sale if approved by lawmakers, did not disclose the asking price.

Shutting down the farms is expected to help limit the smuggling of contraband — drugs, tobacco, cell phones — into the prisons, according to state prison officials.

Eighteen state prison systems as well as the federal corrections system conduct farming operations, according to the National Correctional Industries Association.

Other states have shut down their operations. New York in 2009 began closing 12 prison farms, citing operating losses.

The decision in Ohio to cease prison farming operations has been criticized by the Ohio Civil Service Employees Association, which represents DRC workers impacted by the change.

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