A Prison Sits Empty, A Nonprofit Moves In
As a social worker accustomed to prodding the minds of adjudicated youth in the juvenile justice system, Ashoka Fellow Noran Sanford has long been an inquisitive kind of guy. So when he discovered that six prisons had closed within a 50-mile radius of his home in rural Laurinburg, N.C., including one in the nearby town of Wagram, he began asking questions. Lots of them. “It was in that moment that I began putting together the idea that somebody should do something with these large sites,” Sanford says.
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Despite GrowingChange’s small number of participants, other organizations have taken notice, reaching out from places as far away as the Netherlands, where Sanford traveled to present his model.
Sanford hopes to inspire prison authorities, government leaders, nonprofits, universities, foundations and others to think differently about unused prisons, taking an open-sourced approach by sharing what has, and hasn’t, worked at the Wagram facility. And that has him dreaming big.
“Our hope is to create a federated system of independent sites,” he says.