By Jon Schuppe Mar 22, 2018
WHITESBURG, Ky. — If it wasn’t for his family’s bond to the mountainside where he grew up, Aaron Boggs might have fled by now.
His home is Letcher County, a rugged and remote part of eastern Kentucky sustained for generations by a coal industry that now hardly exists. He remains here out of a sense of duty, but now the prospect of a big new federal project is giving him hope that the area might have an economic future after all.
The project would be a prison.
Starving for jobs, the county has asked the federal government to build a penitentiary here, on the site of an abandoned mountaintop strip mine.
“Having that kind of thing come in, it could symbolize a change in the economy and maybe turn the tide and everything will go back to what it — halfway, at least — to what it was when the coal mines were here,” Boggs, 21, said.
He works at a restaurant while completing college, and envisions himself commuting to the prison from the converted trailer where he lives with his 19-year-old wife, on land still tended by his grandfather. “Hopefully, if the prison does go in, I can get a job there and it will be secure and I’ll be making enough to provide for us where we don’t have to struggle.”