Marion County considers $50M offer to sell jail

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MARION COUNTY, Fla. - Marion County leaders are strapped for cash and they're now considering a plan to sell the county jail.

It's a move officials said could bring in cash without raising taxes. The county has been offered $50 million to sell the Marion County Jail.

"You sell the property for $50 million, and then you make lease payments back," County Commissioner David Moore said. "Why would they give you $50 million unless they were going to make a buck on it?"

The offer came from a private prison company called Corrections Corporation of America. The Marion County Sheriff's Office said they aren't involved in the decision.

"The facility does not belong to the Sheriff's Office. The building and property belong to Marion County and that's controlled by the Board of County Commissioners. We have nothing to do with that so it's really not our decision," said Capt James Pogue with the Sheriff's Office.

CCA would buy the jail and then lease it back to the county for at least the next 20 years. County officials said $50 million upfront would be a huge help.

"That's the whole point of looking at it. Can we take an asset we have from a law enforcement standpoint and take it to make sure we can get more deputies on the road? Can we get some cars? What can we do with it?" commissioner chairman Carl Zalak said.

CCA owns and runs more than five dozen jails and prison across the country, but it has its share of critics. County leaders said the Sheriff's Office would still run the jail, not CCA.

"They're not running it. This is a real estate transaction that does not affect the operations of the jail," Zalak said.

Officials said the offer to buy the jail is still being negotiated.