So far, the city of Susanville’s legal argument that the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation did not follow the correct procedure before making sits decision to close the California Correctional Center in Susanville appears to be holding.
At a Friday, May 20 proceeding in the Lassen County Hall of Justice, visiting judge Robert F. Moody denied the state’s demurrer seeking to dismiss the city’s lawsuit against CDCR opposing the closure of CCC in regards to a California Environmental Quality Act review of the effects of the prison’s closure, including the economic impact in Lassen County. A demurrer is a court filing that contends even though there is a factual basis for assertions made by the other side, those assertions are legally irrelevant or invalid.
According to the judge, the issue before the court is simply this — was the decision to close CCC made properly? Was it made in compliance with state statutes and the CEQA requirements?
The state attorneys argued the city of Susanville’s writ of mandate filing was premature because the state’s decision to close CCC is an internal decision that doesn’t required any public notification, and the state has launched a California Environmental Quality Act review of the effects of the prison’s closure, therefore, there’s no action necessary by the court to enforce the writ that requires the state to comply with the law. In fact, they argued, all the court could do was order CDCR to conduct the CEQA review that’s already under way.
“Your problem is you haven’t complied with anything,” Moody said.
The state attorneys argued the city failed to provide any evidence the state did not comply with the legal requirement because it did not supply an “administrative record” of the CDCR decision-making process as part of its writ.
Margaret Long, the city’s attorney, said the state still has not provided that administrative record. She said the state’s release of that information is six months overdue.
“If they can hide the facts, no one can challenge them,” Long said.
Moody said the state will have to supply that administrative record of how the decision was made to close CCC as part of the CEQA review. He also noted the state launched the CEQA review after the city had filed its writ.
The other major issue — did CDCR follow the law in making its decision to close CCC — will be heard at 10 a.m. Tuesday, May 24.
According to California Penal Code Section 2067(b), “As the population of offenders in private in-state male contract correctional facilities identified in subdivision (a) is reduced, and to the extent that the adult offender population continues to decline, the Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation shall accommodate the projected population decline by reducing the capacity of state-owned and operated prisons or in-state leased or contract correctional facilities, in a manner that maximizes long-term state facility savings, leverages long-term investments, and maintains sufficient flexibility to comply with the federal court order to maintain the prison population at or below 137.5 percent of design capacity. In reducing this additional capacity, the department shall take into consideration the following factors, including, but not limited to: (1) The cost to operate at the capacity. (2) Workforce impacts. (3) Subpopulation and gender-specific housing needs. (4) Long-term investment in state-owned and operated correctional facilities, including previous investments. (5) Public safety and rehabilitation. (6) The durability of the state’s solution to prison overcrowding.