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Thursday, Apr 03 2014 05:49 PM

McFarland women's prison to reopen

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BY RUTH BROWN Californian staff writer rbrown@bakersfield.com

The California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation has signed a contract to reopen a women's prison in McFarland that will house about 260 inmates.

The McFarland Female Community Reentry Facility will be owned and operated by The GEO Group Inc. The private company signed a $9 million annual contract Tuesday with CDCR that runs through June 30, 2018.

The facility primarily will house female inmates whose sentences expire in less than two years, and will provide enhanced rehabilitation and recidivism reduction programs.

The correctional facility closed in 2009 following state budget constraints.

Inmates are expected to be admitted this fall.

The contract between GEO and CDCR includes an option for a 260-bed expansion within the first year.

A spokesman for Florida-based GEO said the new facility will create about 110 local jobs.

McFarland Mayor Manuel Cantu said Thursday those jobs will be an enormous benefit to the community. They mean McFarland's three prisons provide about 350 jobs, making them the city's largest employer.

Cantu said he hopes the additional jobs bring new residents and result in home construction and increased income from sales taxes.

The facility is minimum security and will house felons who committed nonviolent crimes such as property theft, white-collar crime and drug offenses, said CDCR spokeswoman Dana Simas.

CDCR will provide family reunification and other services for inmates. Once they are released, the agency will arrange referrals for substance abuse and housing program options.

All inmates will leave with a California identification card, an important key in finding housing and employment.

"These are facilities for people who are focusing on getting out," Simas said. "This is not just people in custody and keeping people and staff safe. ... We try to provide the tools they'll need to be successful."

GEO is a worldwide operation that owns or manages 98 correctional facilities and about 77,000 beds, including projects under development.

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