Lake City Reporter: Two prisons boost county’s economic life

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Construction of 544 additional beds is more than halfway complete at the Lake City Correctional Facility.

The expansion will add to the 350 beds the minimum to medium security prison currently has. Construction started in June of last year and is scheduled to be completed by the middle of April.

Most of the inmates designated for the facility are first-time offenders from the Florida Department of Corrections and are sentenced from courts around the state.

“There continues to be a growing need for facilities for youth inmates, and it doesn’t look like it is going to slow anytime soon,” Warden Fred Lawson explained.

Each of the new cells will hold two inmates and is equipped with two bunks, one sink, a lavatory and a small table for writing.

The Lake City Correctional Facility, a privately owned facility that contracts with the state to house prisoners, holds only youth males, as the closest female institution is in Gadsen County.

“I have inmates here who are serving 20 to 30 year sentences, but they only spend their first few years here,” Lawson said. “It is important to have that transition facility before you send them to regular adult prisons with older inmates.”

Most inmates spend only three years of their sentence at the Lake City institution and are transferred once they turn 25.

With the growth, Lawson also expects to expand the facility’s educational and vocational programs. Current inmates may earn their GED and 38 are in the process of working on their associate’s degree from the community college. Some also attend night classes taught by professors who come to the facility to teach, and a few take correspondence classes from the University of Florida and Florida State University.

Additional inmates equal new jobs for Columbia County residents.

“We are increasing our staff to include approximately 100 more people, about 50 of which have already been hired from the Lake City Community College

[criminal justice] program,” Lawson said.

Ninety percent of the applications he has received have been from local candidates, but he has also received some from as far away as California.

“We are looking for more correctional officers, RNs, LPNs, mental health staff and much more,” Lawson said.

Part of the reason for the growth is that the inmates often get sent back to prison once they are released. Lawson says that is because many offenders have a hard time accepting responsibility for their actions and respecting authority.

–Ashley Cisneros
Ashley Cisneros is a co-founder of Chatter Buzz Media, an Orlando Internet marketing firm that helps companies and organizations engage with their target markets through inbound marketing via the Internet. Chatter Buzz Media, which won the Social Madness competition for the Orlando small business market, is a full-service digital marketing firm specializing in website design, search engine optimization (SEO), social media marketing and content creation. Prior to founding Chatter Buzz, Ashley worked as a newspaper reporter, magazine editor, technical writer, marketing manager, public relations practitioner and freelance journalist. To see Ashley’s content writing, visit You can also reach Ashley on her Google profile.

About the Author:

Ashley Cisneros Mejia is a journalist, entrepreneur and marketer. She began her career as a newspaper reporter and later as an editor at Florida Trend business magazine. Ashley has worked as a professional freelance writer since 2009, as a technical writer, marketing manager, and public relations practitioner. She also founded two digital marketing agencies in Orlando. Named one of Orlando’s 40 Under 40 and honored by the Women’s Executive Council of Orlando for achievements in media and communications, Ashley earned a B.S. in Journalism and an M.S. in Entrepreneurship at the University of Florida.

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