Prison expansion likely to affect Lassen County
According to the Prison Overcrowding State of Emergency Proclamation the governor issued on Oct. 4, Susanville’s California Correctional Center “has an operational housing capacity of 5,724 inmates, but it currently houses 6,174 inmates, with 450 inmates housed in areas designed for other purposes.
The proclamation continued, “At the same time, in the last year, there were 128 incidents of assault/battery by inmates — 16 of them against CDCR staff — along with 34 riots/melees, and 21 weapon confiscations.”
The proclamation also said, High Desert State Prison in Susanville “has an operational housing capacity of 4,346, but it currently houses 4,706 inmates, with 360 inmates housed in areas designed for other purposes.”
“At the same time, in the last year, there were 351 incidents of assault/battery by (HDSP) inmates — 44 of them against CDCR staff — along with six riots/melees, and 289 weapon confiscations.”
Of the 33 state prisons, CCC and High Desert are among 29 considered severely overcrowded, it said.
According Schwarzenegger’s statement at the Dec. 21 press conference, the prison expansion plan will “meet current demands, prepare for growth and provide prisoners and officers with a safer environment.” The governor proposed $10.6 billion in bond financing and $0.3 billion from the State General Fund to expand California’s prison and jail capacity by a total of 78,000 beds. Details include:
•State prisons: $4.4 billion ($3.3 billion lease revenue bonds, $800 million contract authority, $300 million General Fund).
•Proposal will fund 16,238 new state prison beds on existing sites; 5,000-7,000 beds in new secure re-entry facilities; build a new training facility; and construct a modernized Death Row at San Quentin.
•California’s 174,000 prison population lives in facilities designed for 100,000, and overcrowding has forced more than 17,000 inmates into gymnasium and classroom housing, a dangerous alternative that puts both offenders and guards in danger.
The press release said the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation estimates it needs 50,000 new state prison beds over the next 15 years.
Jack Hanson and John Ketelsen went to a prison expansion meeting with James E. Tilton, secretary of the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation, the day of the press conference.
Tilton did not give details about which prisons would be expanded. Ketelsen said he and Hanson went to the meeting to tell Tilton about the unique effects prisons have on counties with small populations.
Almost 26 percent of the county’s populations consists of prison inmates, Ketelsen said.
As a result the county faces higher costs for criminal prosecution which it cannot handle as well as larger counties. There are also hiring problems because the county can’t compete with the prison pay scale.
Ketelsen said the prisons draw away employees the county has trained. He told Tilton prison hiring doesn’t create a problem for the county as long as prisons hire unemployed people.
“When they hire people outside or hire people already employed, it’s not helpful,” Ketelsen said.
Ketelsen said Tilton comes from a public sector background knows finance and was willing to learn. Tilton said there is money in the state budget for mitigation, according to Ketelsen, and Tilton was sympathetic to addressing the unique needs of smaller counties
“A little later he is going to hold town hall meetings starting off in Amador County. I intend to bring the message to the board that we should attend that and invite him here,” Ketelsen said.
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