Local News

Friday, Feb 21 2014 03:02 PM

Taft correctional facility close to reopening

BY RUTH BROWN Californian staff writer rbrown@bakersfield.com

Seventy correctional officers for the Taft Community Correctional Facility were sworn in Friday in anticipation of the prison's reopening after more than two years of closure.

The first batch of state inmates will arrive March 3 and Taft Mayor Paul Linder anticipates they will continue to come in groups of 50 until the facility is full. The city-operated facility can hold up to 512 inmates.

Taft CCF closed when, as a result of prison realignment decisions, the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation canceled a contract to send state prisoners there.

Realignment shifted the incarceration and supervision of non-serious, non-sexual and non-violent criminals from the state to counties. Still under a mandate to reduce the state prison population, CDCR decided to again contract with Taft and other local CCFs in an effort to improve rehabilitation programs without releasing inmates, according to the agency.

Linder said Taft Community Correctional Facility is now considered a maximum-security prison but the inmates it will receive will have been deemed medium- to minimum-security. The facility will house no maximum-security inmates.

Inmates who are categorized as minimum- or medium-security have been convicted of felonies such as non-violent, non-sexual or drug crimes, Linder said.

Taft CCF's reopening will be positive for the city, the mayor said. Not only does it create 70 correctional job openings, of which many will be filled by local residents, it also will bring back the $50 million contract Taft has with CDCR. The contract lasts 4 1/2 years, Linder said.

The money from the contract goes into the city's general fund, which is used for a variety of city needs.

Of the 70 new officers, about 25 percent are former employees who ceased working when the facility closed, and about 75 percent are new employees, Linder said.

Other temporarily closed correctional facilities included Delano Community Correctional Facility, which reopened Jan. 7 and holds 578 inmates, and Shafter Community Correctional Facility, which holds 560 inmates and reopened Dec. 17.

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