Officials at the Lansing Correctional Facility have started to move medium and maximum security inmates into new buildings on the prison’s campus.
The move began earlier this week and is expected to take about three weeks to complete, according to Rebecca Witte, public information officer for the Kansas Department of Corrections.
“It’s definitely no small task,” she said.
The new buildings were recently constructed as part of a reconstruction of the Lansing Correctional Facility.
The project was the result of a 20-year lease-purchase agreement between the state government and the private prison development company CoreCivic.
Minimum security inmates were moved into a new building in late December.
But the coronavirus pandemic had caused some delays in moving the remaining inmates into new units, according to Witte.
Medium and maximum security inmates now are being moved from the old prison to two new buildings. Witte said the two buildings have a total of 15 living units that each can house 128 people.
The move for the medium and maximum inmates comes at a time when LCF is the site of a COVID-19 outbreak.
As of Thursday afternoon, a total of 50 inmates have tested positive for the coronavirus since the outbreak began. Nineteen of them have recovered, according to a Kansas Department of Corrections website.
Sixty-two employees at LCF have tested positive for the virus. Five of them have been able to return to work.
Witte said the new living units will make it possible for inmates to stay in small groups rather than the open dormitory style of the old prison.
“They’re not going to be intermingling with each other,” she said.
The prison currently is on lockdown status as a result of the outbreak at the prison.
Inmates at LCF who were placed in quarantine because of exposure to the coronavirus already had been moved to the new facilities. Witte said the other inmates who are now being moved to the new buildings will not be in contact with those who are quarantined.
Because of staffing shortages resulting from the COVID-19 outbreak, members of the Kansas National Guard have been asked to assist with the move. The National Guard troops were expected to arrive at the prison on Thursday.
In addition to inmates, prison officials also have to move the inmates’ belongings. Witte said the items have to be inventoried and packed up.
Witte said LCF currently has a total of 1,287 medium and maximum security inmates. The new medium and maximum buildings have capacity for 1,920 beds.
Formerly called the Kansas State Penitentiary, LCF opened in 1867.
Witte said the KDOC officials do not have plans for the old buildings at this point. She said KDOC officials do not plan to tear down the historic structures.