NASHVILLE - A Senate Republican budget plan that calls for the state to spend $18 million to keep state prisoners at a West Tennessee prison owned by Corrections Corp. of America is drawing questions from House Speaker Kent Williams and Senate Democrats.
The state would maintain a prison population of about 1,500 inmates at the Whiteville Correctional Facility in Hardeman County through the first half of next year in their proposed plan.
"I think that's Sen. Delores Gresham's district," said Rep. Williams in an interview over the Memorial Day weekend. "It's pork for her. That's basically what it is. If they're going to call the fish hatchery pork, that's definitely pork."
Rep. Williams, an Elizabethton independent, has taken a pounding in recent days over his effort to keep $16.1 million in one-time federal stimulus funds, which may or may not materialize, for a fish hatchery in his district.
The Bredesen administration's budget plans call for withdrawing prisoners from Whiteville by Dec. 31.
Senate Minority Leader Jim Kyle, D-Memphis, said he found it "interesting" Senate Republicans were providing $18 million "to keep a prison open that the commissioner testified she didn't need opened. The other side is saying we're being austere. We're not 'porking or wasting your money.'"