WASHINGTON, DC -- U.S. Rep. Harold "Hal" Rogers (KY-05) pressed U.S. Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein about the Administration's proposal to rescind funding for the Letcher County Prison during a hearing on Tuesday for the Department of Justice's fiscal year 2018 budget.
Congress approved $444 million for construction of the facility in 2016, which would create approximately 300 jobs in Eastern Kentucky. The facility is scheduled to be built in Roxanna, Kentucky and is awaiting the release of the Bureau of Prison's Record of Decision, expected later this year.
"As you know, overcrowding in federal penitentiaries poses significant problems for the health and safety of inmates and guards alike. The Government Accountability Office reports that Bureau of Prisons facilities experience 30% overcrowding system-wide and 52% overcrowding among high-security penitentiaries," said Congressman Rogers, who serves as Chairman Emeritus of the House Appropriations Committee. "With that in mind, this Committee and the Congress passed a bill last year appropriating funds for a new penitentiary in Letcher County, Kentucky to help alleviate the crowding. In your budget request, you specifically rescind the money for that facility. What I want to know is, are you serious?"
General Rosenstein said tough budget choices had been made as a result of the Administration's tight budget proposal. He also noted a 14% decline in prison population over the last four years.
"General, the Congress decided this and it’s the Congress that controls the purse strings of the country. It’s been passed. It’s the law. The money is there - appropriated, authorized, everything in order," responded Congressman Rogers. "We recognize there’s a problem. We’ve got terrific overcrowding. Yes, we’ve made some reductions in recent years, but not enough. This has been decided and we expect it to be carried out."
During the hearing, Rogers also shared concerns about continued funding to combat the nation's drug abuse epidemic.
To watch the full hearing, visit appropriations.house.gov.