Local News

Tuesday, Oct 22 2013 06:30 PM

Taft, L.A. County reach deal on correctional facility reopening

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    By Californian file photo

    The Taft Community Correctional Facility.

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BY STEVE LEVIN Californian staff writer slevin@bakersfield.com

The city of Taft has reached a $55 million agreement with Los Angeles County to reopen the Taft Community Correctional Facility for more than 500 low-level inmates.

The contract has been signed, Taft Mayor Paul Linder said Tuesday, and is awaiting tweaks by LA supervisors' staff before being finalized.

The five-year agreement will bring low-level inmates -- none convicted of violent, sexual or serious crimes -- from Los Angeles County beginning as soon as December.

"There's no bad news to it at all as far as we're concerned," Linder said. "It's a huge shot in the arm."

The reopening will provide about 54 jobs, mostly filled by area residents.

The Taft CCF was built in 1991 and for 21 years operated with a state contract. But implementation of AB109 -- known as prison realignment -- in October 2011 led to the 512-bed facility's closing.

Linder said the closure put the city more than $1 million in debt from so-called "shutdown" costs such as unemployment and vacation payouts, and ongoing litigation with the state over the facility's closure.

He said the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation had expressed interest in using the Taft CCF for medium-security inmates. But Linder estimates that would have cost the city as much as $1 million -- without any state reimbursement -- to add a secondary security fence and a controlled entryway, or sally port, for the more violent inmates.

He said the lower-level inmates will be able to "work outside the wire" in public service jobs and as volunteers for nonprofits, which will not only benefit the community but the inmates, too.

Under the agreement, the Westside Health Care District will provide basic medical care for the Taft CCF inmates and be reimbursed by the city for doctor and nursing fees.

The added income will enable the district to expand the hours of its urgent care facility and work toward offering occupational services, according to Eric Cooper, the health care district's vice president.

After expenses, Taft will realize about $700,000 annually from the contract, according to City Manager Craig Jones.

The reopening of the Taft correctional facility follows recent similar agreements between the CDCR and the cities of Shafter and McFarland to use existing facilities for state inmates. The state is under a federal court order to reduce its prison population to 137.5 percent of design capacity.

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