State Prison

Shuttered state prisons spring back to life

Declining prisoner census and a need to consolidate facilities has emptied institutions.


GAINESVILLE, Fla. — The cinder block buildings dominating this campus have been painted bright pink, orange and blue. The razor wire that used to top the chain link fence has been removed. New trees have been planted and stark warning signs such as “No one may pass this point” have been scrubbed from the walls.

For two decades, this was the Gainesville Correctional Institute, a medium-security state prison 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 help residents find a way out. About 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.

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