From jailhouse to marijuana farm: empty US prisons get strange makeovers

The cinder block buildings that dominate the campus have been painted bright pink, orange and blue. The razor wire that used to sit atop the chain-link fence has been cut down. New trees have been planted, and stark warning signs such as “No one may pass this point” have been scrubbed from concrete walls, The Guardian informs.

For two decades, this was the Gainesville Correctional Institute, a medium-security state prison in Florida where the guards’ main goal was to keep prisoners in. Now it’s Grace Marketplace, a nonprofit campus for the homeless, where social service workers are helping residents find a way out. Around 115 people live on the property, tucked away in an industrial area of this college town, receiving free meals, work training and connections to government services, transportation and jobs.

About 150 state prisons like this one closed after the recession, the result of declining prison populations and consolidations meant to save on operating costs. Many of the properties have sat vacant for years, costing money to maintain, inviting vagrants and reminding locals of jobs that have disappeared. But across the country, the properties are increasingly taking on new life.
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