Local News

Thursday, Aug 09 2012 09:30 PM

LA supervisors to consider contract to send inmates to Taft

BY RACHEL COOK Californian staff writer rcook@bakersfield.com

The Los Angles County Board of Supervisors will consider a five-year, multimillion dollar agreement to house inmates in Taft at a Tuesday meeting.

The agreement is for a contract "not to exceed" $75 million to house 512 county inmates at the Taft Community Correctional Facility.

"(The agreement is) exciting and a big relief because the mass layoff of 50-plus employees of a city that employs 120 people, that was almost half our workforce," Taft City Manager Craig Jones said Thursday.

Taft's mayor called a special City Council meeting for Monday to take action on the agreement. Jones said he believes all five of the council's members support the contract, which was finalized early last week.

Los Angeles County would pay the city of Taft $475,800 for start-up costs, according to a letter to the board. After the CCF is fully up and running again, the county would pay the city a flat rate of $31,000 a day, which is $60.55 per inmate. It costs the county $112.84 per day to keep an inmate in its own jail system, according to the letter.

Community correctional facilities, also know as CCFs, in Kern County and throughout the state were left empty after the statewide prison reform known as realignment went into effect last year. AB 109 shifted offenders convicted of non-serious, non-violent and non-sexual crimes from state to county supervision.

If the agreement with Taft is approved, the Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department would transport inmates sentenced to longer terms under AB 109 guidelines to the Taft CCF, according to the letter.

The agreement must be approved by a majority of the five-member board of supervisors, LA County Sheriff's Department public information officer Nicole Nishida wrote in an email Thursday.

If the city and county approve the agreement, inmates could be transfered to Taft in early September, Nishida wrote. How quickly the county would fill the facility's beds would depend on "Taft's ability to provide appropriate staffing," she wrote.

Jones said closing in on the contract is "all positive."

The closure of the CCF last fall hit Taft in a numbers of ways, including the layoffs. The city has paid out about half a million dollars in unemployment costs since then, Jones said.

The end of the city's contract with the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation also meant the city lost about $770,000 in annual excess revenue from the contract that was devoted to fire and police protection, Jones said.

On top of that, keeping the facility functional and employing one staff member for that purpose would cost the city about $100,000 a year, he said.

If the contract is approved, the city will hire about 50 or more people to staff the facility. Jones anticipates about half of those would be staff members who were laid off.

Besides bringing back jobs, the city manager said that the county has been supportive of the city's desire to once again use inmate labor for beautification and nonprofit projects.

To the north, LA County is still negotiating with the city of Shafter to send inmates to that city's CCFs as well. Scott Hurlbert, Shafter's assistant city manager, said it's good to see Taft putting together its agreement with LA County. That progress shows that politically, the county can move forward in its efforts to contract with CCFs, he said.

"The overall feeling is very optimistic and the discussion has been going well," Hurlbert said of Shafter's talks with LA County. "We're happy to see Taft moving forward and we're anxious to get our agreement to the same position."

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