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Monday, Oct 21 2013 05:25 PM

Shafter, state close to deal to reopen correctional facility

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BY JAMES BURGER Californian staff writer jburger@bakersfield.com

The city of Shafter is just days away from inking a five-year deal with the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation to reopen the Shafter Community Correctional Facility.

Shafter City Manager John Guinn said the Shafter City Council approved the current version of the deal last week and negotiations with the CDCR are "down to minutia."

He expects to have the deal signed by the end of the week.

Guinn said the city has already started the process of hiring the 86 workers who will staff the facility and is preparing to bid out the construction work that will be needed to meet the CDCR's needs.

That work, he said, will include restroom improvements, an outside visitation area and other improvements.

Under the contract, Shafter would take low-to-moderate security Level 2 prisoners similar to those "that have been at McFarland," Guinn said.

State Sen. Andy Vidak, R-Hanford, chimed in on the issue Monday, sending a letter to Jeffrey Beard, secretary of the CDCR, urging the reopening of community correctional facilities in Coalinga, Delano, Shafter and Taft.

Local CCFs were closed in 2011 when so-called prison realignment resulted in low-level offenders being sent to county jail instead of prison and the facilities were no longer needed by the CDCR.

But now California needs more prison beds.

"In light of the federal court order limiting the state's prison population to 137.5 percent of design capacity, public CCFs can and should be used to help the state reach this mandate," he wrote. "It is my understanding that CDCR is already in discussions to reopen a number of CCFs in the state and I believe that CDCR should reopen these four facilities."

Guinn said reopening the correctional facility would be a big boon to Shafter.

The city doesn't use profits from running the CCF to fund basic city services.

But adding nearly 90 good jobs to the economy -- and opening a facility with a $14 million-a-year annual operational budget -- will help the community economically, he said.

And the profits, Guinn said, would be flowed to the Shafter Schools Project -- a partnership with Richland School District and the Kern High School District that helps promote early literacy and improve high school graduation rates.

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