CALIFORNIA CITY – California City could lose and gain with a new prison plan by the Governor.
Governor Jerry Brown is proposing the State lease the California City Corrections Center as part of his $315 million plan to help alleviate overcrowding at prisons. The Federal Court has ordered the State to comply by the end of 2013.
State lawmakers are seeking to lease the Correctional Corporation of America facility and have it run by the State Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation. CCA would take prisoners slated for early released because of the overcrowding instead of having them out in the general population. The facility originally was to be a State prison, but it was abandoned for a site in Lancaster in the 1990s.
The 13-year-old private prison in Cal City is owned by Nashville-based CCA. It can house around 2,600 prisoners at all security levels. Some 2,300 State inmates would be moved into the Cal City facility under the plan. That lease would expire at then end of 2017.
Currently, CCA prison has an agreement with the Federal government to house detainees from the U.S. Marshal and Immigration and Customs Enforcement. California City’s budget receives 50 cents per detainee, per day under a 2010 agreement. The numbers for those prisoners has been around 900 to 1,200 since the agreement was established. The prison also has some 330 employees.
Under the new State proposal, the Federal prisoners would be moved out, eliminating the revenue stream to Cal City. That could be a loss of around $160,000 to the City.
Despite that loss, it’s felt that there would be additional workers needed at the prison, which could help Cal City’s economy in the housing market, schools and taxes collected.
“We don’t know all the details yet,” said Cal City Mayor Pat Bohannon. “It could hurt our budget with the loss of those funds, but the numbers had been down at prison. It could help our housing market so we could recoup some property taxes. The proposal has its good and bad points for us. We’ll just to wait and see.”
Those now employed at CCA most likely would be offered similar jobs at the State level, and could be at a higher salary rate. Those not retained could transfer to other CCA facilities. The projected number of employees would increase to around 800.
“That could help our city,” said Cal City Manager Tom Weil. “There would be more jobs available at a higher pay rate. That could mean more housing sales. Many of the local real estate people feel that could be great boost for the local economy.”
It also was reported that by contracting with CCA, the State now has immediate for relief for its overcrowded prisons until long-term reforms can be implemented. It also defers the cost of constructing new prisons. It would only cost $64.82 per bed as opposed to $137 for a new facility. In addition, it provides the transferred inmates with comprehensive programming and rehabilitation services.
“Right now, you can look at it as a double-edged sword,” said Councilman Chuck McGuire. “We could lose that source of revenue, but there would be gain from additional employees, possibly buying bigger homes.”
Councilman Bill Smith felt the decision could put the Cal City in a bind.
“Years ago, the State didn’t want the prison, now they do,” he said. “It also could put some out of work and we lose a revenue source.”
Steve Owen, CCA Senior Director of Public Affairs, said his company is proud of the solutions they been able to deliver to California.
“Last week's announcement demonstrates the flexibility our company has to meet the changing needs of our government partners,” he said. “We appreciate this opportunity, and look forward to continuing our work with the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation.”