In a stunning move, Reading Eagle Company announced today it has submitted a bid to convert its new printing and distribution center on Penn Street into a maximum-security prison that would house up to 200 foreign detainees currently held at Guantanamo Bay.
With the newspaper industry in turmoil, publishers need to "think outside the box" in developing new revenue streams, said associate publisher Larry Orkus, who spearheaded the $42-million construction project in the 300 block of Penn Street.
When many officials are appalled at the thought of the "worst of the worst" being jailed in their communities, Ron Adams, the mayor of cash-strapped Hardin, Montana, urged the Obama administration this week to ship 100 inmates from Gitmo to Hardin's unused, $27-million prison.
"We think Reading would be a better fit," Orkus pitched. "Our facility has 77,000 square feet of space and our press conveyors can easily be converted into waterboards.
"Even if one or two terror suspects should escape, it won't be any more dangerous than it is now for people to walk around downtown at night," he said with a twinkle.
The proposal drew immediate fire from Commissioner Mark Scott, who said this is another example of the "liberal media" trying to bring more "aliens" into Berks.
There was no immediate word on whether any of the workers recently laid off at the Eagle would be rehired or if current staffers would be retrained as jailers.
Orkus suggested renaming the facility the Adler Anti-Terror Big House after the first German-language newspaper in Reading -- "unless a corporate sponsor can be found."
If the plan is approved, the Eagle's mammoth Koenig & Bauer AG Colora Berliner press would be dismantled and put on display at the Reading Public Museum as the last press of its kind ever sold in the United States.