WAGRAM — Free tours of the former Scotland Correctional Center turned sanctuary for troubled teens will be available to the public on Saturday.
Growing Change will hold its “Flip the Prison Capital Campaign Kickoff,” to raise funds to rebuild parts of the abandoned Wagram state prison. The tour will be held from noon to 4 p.m. at 22600 Wagram Road.
The prison flip is being conducted by the Scotland County organization, Growing Change, founded by Noran Sanford in 2011. The nonprofit has set out to work with young people limited by criminal charges in North Carolina, the only state in America that continues to prosecute 16-year-olds as adults.
The event is a sneak peak of the field camp prison, turned sustainable farming and youth guidance project. The first phase of reconstruction will begin this summer with plans to host a grand opening on Sept.9 that will feature a planted garden, livestock and some building renovations.
Saturday’s event will feature a history exhibit on the field camp prison era, tours of the site, free barbecue and beverages, farming demonstrations by youth involved in Growing Change, and an opportunity for visitors to take part in the first planting on the site grounds in 30 years.
“When this was a fully functioning field camp prison — field camps were used to build the road system,” Sanford said.
According to Sanford, North Carolina used more forced labor than any other state in the nation, had the largest number of prisons in the nation, and incarcerated the largest percentage of its population in America.
Visitors can expect to see the prison’s central cell block, mess hall, and hot box as well has hear from those involved with the project about the site’s future plans.
“I’m excited about the feedback and to see how everybody responds to everything that we have been doing and all the work we have put into it to see everything come together,” said Terrence Smith, a growing change veteran. “The strength is in the action of the reclamation of the site. The site was once a tool of justice in a negative way, now it is going to be a tool of justice in a positive way.”
Sanford has already heard from multiple organizations that have an interest in holding conferences at the Wagram prison site once construction is complete.
The organization will also begin raising money for future capital projects, including the conversion of the prison’s guard tower into a rock wall, repelling station, and adventure slide.
The goal of the project is to transform the once prison labor camp that operated from 1930 to 2001 and was responsible for the construction of sections of North Carolina’s roads, into an agricultural and farming community center that will provide counseling and assistance services for troubled youth in the region. The facility will also provide employment and educational services for returning veterans and recreational opportunities for the surrounding community, according to Sanford.
Reach Nolan Gilmour at 910-506-3171