America has a unique crisis on its hands: a prisoner shortage. There are too many prisons and not enough people to put in them. There were 1.62 million inmates in federal and state prisons in 2009, according to the Bureau of Justice Statistics. Last year, thanks to a combination of lower crime rates and more relaxed sentences, that had fallen to 1.57 million.
As a result of this surplus of non-incarcerated citizens, cities are faced with high maintenance fees for buildings that are never used.
Littlefield, Texas, for example, is $8 million in debt for its prison, which has been empty since 2009. In Multnomah County, Oregon, they are forking up $300,000 every year to maintain their 155,000 square-foot empty space.
“There’s a prisoner shortage,” Mike Arismendez, city manager for Littlefield, tells the Wall Street Journal. “Everybody finds it hard to believe.”
The problem is that while people will buy up old firehouses and other municipal buildings, purchasing a prison is much less appealing. What can they do with these empty jails? We come up with five solutions.
1. A novelty hotel
The words “jail” and “novelty hotel” go almost hand in hand for any tourism entrepreneur – especially one who read about the warden in France who tried to sub-let his on-site accommodation illegally. From the bedroom decor to the imposing architecture, the themed nature of the place would be easy to mine for inspiration. In fact, someone in the Netherlands has already developed the Het Arresthuis jail in Roermond (dating back to 1863) as a luxury hotel. Boasting 40 rooms – including “The Lawyer” and “The Judge” – and a lounge in the former hallway, crime chic has never been trendier. Other successful prison-hotels Malmaison Hotel in Oxford, England and Jailhotel Lowengraben in Lucerne, Switzerlan.
2. An edgy art gallery
In Texas, the 1,060-bed facility called the Central Unit is being turned into an “aviation-focused business park”, but why aim for something so serious and dry? An art gallery in such an edgy location would be far more colourful, particularly with the potential to exhibit former inmates’ work. Indeed, Milibank Prison in England was partially knocked down and redeveloped into Tate Britain, while Peel Art Gallery Museum and Archives in California houses a former jail as one of its buildings.
3. A movie studio
Movies set in prison always need somewhere to film. Why not create a permanent set available for use on any TV show or film? Not convinced? Consider Orange Is the New Black, currently taking Netflix by storm. Or Staten Island’s Arthur Kill Correctional Facility, which is being developed into the borough’s first studio, complete with five sound stages and all the former jail buildings for film sets.
4. A themed restaurant
The one thing cooler than a themed hotel? A themed restaurant. Just this summer, an old cinema in Madrid was reopened as a gourmet destination, complete with preserved proscenium arch and red stage curtain, as well as tables in the balconies and stalls. If a cinema’s interior can make food magic, what could be more eye-catching than a jail’s architecture?
5. A paintball experience
We live in a world where everyday stress and workplace anxiety is increasingly commonplace. Paintballing can be a valuable way to alleviate that stress and help an office bond through a team-building day out. And, of course, teenagers who play Call of Duty would relish the chance to channel that into a birthday party celebration. What makes paintball exciting, though, is a realistic arena in which to duel. With the stairs, balconies, cells and corridors, there would be more than enough hiding places for tense combat.
What would you do with an empty prison?
Source: The Movechannel