Jefferson County tries to block prison closure

Jan 20, 2012

By early June, 11 Florida correctional facilities are expected to close, but one county is not taking that sitting down. As Sascha Cordner reports, the Jefferson County Commission declared an economic emergency Thursday night, and hired two lobbyists to fight the prison closure in their area.

Currently, the Jefferson Correctional Institution is the county’s biggest employer. That means if it closes in April, about 6-percent of the county’s workforce will be gone. So, to stop the planned closing of the prison, Jefferson county commissioners hired two lobbyists, including Tallahassee lobbyist Wendy Bitner:

“We’ve had the Department of Corrections staff out here in Jefferson County over the last week meeting with us, explaining their process on how they came to the consensus to put JC on the list of prisons to close. We are informing Legislators right now. At some point, we may be asking them to get involved. Right now, we are working through the Department and the Governor’s Office to see if we can get this turned around.”

Bitner, who’s the widow of the late Republican Party Chairman, Dave Bitner, is also working with Chris Doolin, a lobbyist with the Small County Coalition.