BY REBECCA KHEEL Californian staff writer email@example.com
The city of Taft is keeping its options open should Los Angeles County ultimately decide not to approve a contract to send a chunk of its inmates to the Taft Community Correctional Facility.
"All I can say is that we're letting other counties know we're available," Taft Mayor Randy Miller said.
As Taft waits for the next time the contract appears on the L.A. County Board of Supervisors' agenda, city staff have sent memos marketing the facility to almost every county in California with jail overcrowding issues, Miller said.
In August, the Taft City Council unanimously approved a contract to allow L.A. County to use its facility, thinking L.A. would follow suit. Under the contract, L.A. County would pay $31,000 a day, or $60.55 per inmate, to use the correctional facility's 512 beds. The county would also pay $475,800 for startup costs. The contract is not to exceed $75 million.
But the Los Angeles supervisors have tabled the item three times, citing a desire to thoroughly review the contract and its costs. It next appears on their Oct. 30 agenda.
Taft is still hopeful L.A. will approve the deal Oct. 30, Miller said.
"We're on pins and needles," he said.
Craig Jones, Taft's city manager, emphasized in a phone message that Taft is not in contract negotiations with any other county yet.
The Taft CCF has been vacant since the statewide prison reform known as realignment went into effect last fall. The last employees were laid off Nov. 15, with just a few staying to maintain the facilities.
If a year passes after a city employee is laid off, the city has no legal obligation to give him or her priority to fill a job, Jones has said. But that does not mean the city will not hire them back.
One of the main counties Taft has informally talked with is Riverside, Miller said.
Raymond Gregory, chief deputy sheriff of Riverside County, confirmed that staff in Riverside have been looking into using the Taft lock-up, as well as facilities in other cities and counties. But, he added, that is not Riverside's first choice.
Before Riverside contracts with a city, it is looking to send inmates to the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation Conservation Camp program, which uses inmates to combat fires and work on conservation projects.
But only certain, able-bodied inmates could be sent to the camps, Gregory said. If and when all of Riverside's eligible inmates are sent to the camps, the county will look more in depth into contracting with Taft and other cities, he said.
"We'll look and see if funding is available to contract with municipalities," he said.