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Sadness, resentment at closing of Hillsborough prison
By .tampabay.com - Steve Bousquet
Published: 03/20/2012

You'd think the news that Florida needs fewer prisons would be cause for celebration.

But not in Hillsborough County.

Instead, this is a time of frustration and despair for many people connected to Hillsborough Correctional Institution in Riverview.

The only Florida prison with a faith- and character-based curriculum exclusively for female inmates is closing permanently.

Inmates are being shipped 100 miles north to Lowell, a prison in Ocala, and correctional officers have been given jobs at various prisons, some as much as 80 miles away.

With gas costing nearly $4 a gallon, that's a hardship for low-paid prison workers, who just got a chilling reminder of the dangerous nature of their work: An officer was killed on duty at a prison in Lake City Sunday.

The debt-ridden state Department of Corrections, facing a $79 million flood of red ink and stuck with 12,000 empty prison beds, is closing six prisons, including Hillsborough, which was ranked last based on state criteria such as cost-per-inmate, maintenance expenses and space at nearby prisons.

Lowell is an all-women's prison that has an entire dorm that's new and empty, with plenty of room to continue the faith-based programs. That made the decision to close Hillsborough a no-brainer at corrections headquarters.

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