Local News

Monday, Oct 26 2009 04:43 PM

State plans to close two community correctional facilities in Kern

BY JAMES BURGER, Californian staff writer jburger@bakersfield.com

Two privately run prisons in Kern County were issued 60-day closure notices Monday by the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation.

McFarland Community Correctional Facility in McFarland and Mesa Verde Correctional Facility in Bakersfield now face closure.

Wardens at both facilities declined to discuss the situation Monday afternoon.

The decision was made because downward trends in the minimum-security inmate population have reduced demand for the services the private prisons provide, said Terry Thornton, a spokeswoman for the Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation.

"We just don't have enough inmates to fill these kinds of beds," she said.

According to Monday's announcement, California's 13 community correctional facilities have more than 5,900 beds. But 1,200 of them are not currently used.

Much of the cause can be traced to recent parole reforms that have reduced the state's on-parole population and, as a result, reduced the number of people who violate parole and are sent back to prison, Thornton said.

The state has more than 13,000 fewer people on parole this October than it did in October 2008, she said.

Mesa Verde, located on Golden State Avenue, has a contract to keep 360 minimum-security adult male prisoners, she said. It employs 66 staff, according to an online facility profile and is operated by Cornell Companies, Inc.

McFarland Community is run by The GEO Group and is contracted to take 200 minimum-security male inmates from the state.

Inmates in both facilities will be moved to existing minimum-security state facilities, Thornton said.

Closing the two local facilities -- and a third community prison in Baker -- will save the state $12.7 million in closed contracts and an additional $2.5 million in salaries of the 22 state workers who will be transferred or laid off because of the move, according to the announcement from the Department of Corrections.

Thornton said all three of the closed prisons will have a shot to recreate themselves and serve a state inmate population that is currently underserved.

The department will issue a request for bids next month to open female correctional facilities.

"We only have one community correctional facility for women (in the state)," Thornton said.

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