This is how bad the economy is in southwestern Virginia: People are wishing they had more criminals in town.
That’s because Grayson County has a brand-new state prison standing empty. No prisoners. And that means no guards, no administrators, no staff, no jobs.
“I wish they would go ahead and open it up,” said Rhonda James of Mouth of Wilson, echoing many residents there. “We really need it in the county really bad.”
Three hundred new jobs — maybe 350 — that’s what people were told when the prison was planned. With about 11 percent unemployment and no relief in sight, that sounded really good to an awful lot of people here.
But months after the commonwealth finished building the 1,024-bed medium-security prison for $105 million, it remains empty, coils of razor wire and red roofs shining in the sun, new parking lot all but deserted and a yawning warehouse waiting for supplies.
And it’s costing more than $700,000 a year to maintain.