Baldwin Community Reacts To GEO Prison Closing Again

"We’re not living and dying on GEO anymore. We can’t,” says James Truxton, Baldwin Village President.

The doors of a Northern Michigan prison are shut once again.

The end of a contract means the GEO Prison is now closed.

Tuesday marked the end of a contract keeping hundreds of Vermont inmates in the GEO North Lake Correctional Facility in Baldwin.

It’s not the first time it’s closed.

In 2005, state budget cuts forced the GEO Prison to close.

It reopened again in 2011, but only briefly.

The GEO Group signed an agreement to move Vermont inmates into the facility in June 2015.

9&10 News / Fox 32’s Cody Boyer and photojournalist Jacob Johnson spoke with community leaders and businesses to see how the latest closure will impact the area.

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It’s an on-and-off struggle community leaders say they know all too well.

“It’s not as devastating as it used to be because we haven’t come to count on it,” Truxton says.

Another year, another closure for the GEO Prison…

…A bad taste that still lingers in the mouth of Baldwin Village President James Truxton.

“Just when we think we are starting to get some positive momentum going, it stops, so it’s like anything,” Truxton says. “It’s tough to get that momentum back."

Truxton says the village did not budget for the prison’s return but the loss of hundreds of workers trickles into the local economy.

“Places like the golf course or the Dairy Queen or Jones’ Ice Cream, yeah, they close down at the end of every season but we all know they are going to be back next season,” Truxton says.

Businesses nearby, like Barsky, feel the pain.

“A lot of the workers are now out of a job and they now have to try to find another job,” says Steve Troupe, owner of Barsky down the road from the prison. “There’s really no faith in it ever actually opening and staying open anymore. We’ve completely lost all of our faith in them having it impact or community like we thought it was going to."

“It’s not GEO’s fault,” Truxton says. “They are at the subject of either the federal government or state government. I can’t believe a $150 million facility can just sit here, empty, and somebody won’t do something."

Truxton says hope remains, but not as much.

“There’s always that hope that they will end up signing that contract with the feds,” Truxton says. “The hope is there but people aren’t getting their hopes up."

We reached out to the GEO Group on Wednesday several times.

They have not responded yet.

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