BALDWIN — Private prison operator Geo Group Inc. plans to reopen its closed North Lake Correctional Facility in Baldwin.
The Florida-based company said it won a 10-year federal government contract to house “non-U.S. citizen criminal aliens” and plans to reopen the 1,800-bed prison in Lake County to fulfill the contract.
“We’re pleased to have been able to strengthen our long-standing partnership with the (Bureau of Prisons) with this important contract award,” GEO Chairman and CEO George Zoley said in a statement.
He added the facility will “play an important role in helping the agency meet its long-term need for high quality, cost-effective services” that comply with the Bureau of Prisons’ standards.
The contract is expected to generate about $37 million in incremental annualized revenues for GEO (NYSE: GEO).
State Sen. Curt VanderWall, R-Ludington, said the company’s plan to reopen the prison comes as “wonderful news” for the community.
“This contract will create up to 320 permanent jobs in the village of Baldwin, a remarkable number for a town with a population under 1,500,” he said in a statement. “I look forward to GEO Group establishing the prison and becoming a valuable member of the community.”
The Baldwin facility, the only private prison in the state, has struggled to stay open since it came online in 1999.
Most recently, Geo Group permanently closed the facility in 2017 and cut 170 jobs. Two years earlier, the company signed a $15 million contract with the Vermont Department of Corrections to house 675 inmates at the medium- and maximum-security facility. However, Vermont ended up transferring fewer than 300 inmates to the facility, leading Geo Group to not renew the contract, as MiBiz previously reported.
The prison first opened after former Michigan Gov. John Engler signed a 20-year contract with a predecessor to Geo Group for the former Michigan Youth Correctional Facility, at the time dubbed a “punk prison,” to brace for a wave of young violent super-offenders that never materialized.
It fell victim to the state budget in 2005, when Engler’s successor, former Gov. Jennifer Granholm, vetoed funding for the prison, which closed that year. Geo later expanded the facility to 1,740 beds in 2009, but only was able to sign a series of short-lived contracts.