The Los Angeles County supervisors will consider approving a 5-year, $75 million contract Tuesday to send several hundred long-term inmates to a penal facility in Taft – a city in Kern County near Bakersfield, 80 miles north of the Pitchess Detention Center in Castaic.
Sheriff Lee Baca’s staff recently completed negotiations with city officals in Taft that will provide “housing relief for 512 jail beds at a cost that is significantly less than housing within (Los Angeles) County’s system,” according to a board report from Baca and L.A. County CAO William Fujioka.
The move is necessitated by the state Legislature’s passage of Gov. Jerry Brown’s realignment bill last year, which shifted so-called “low level” state prisoners to county jails. In Los Angeles County, their prison terms run from two to 42 years.
According to the board report, Los Angeles County’s custody system has an operating capacity of approximately 21,000 jail beds. Most are filled by suspects who haven’t yet gone to trial or convicts who haven’t yet been sentenced. Very few L.A. County beds are occupied by traditional county inmates – i.e., those already sentenced to 364 days or less – because there isn’t room for them.
Realignment will add 7,000 prisoners to the L.A. County jails by the spring of 2014, according to Baca and Fujioka’s report.
“This will represent a significant population shift toward sentenced (state) inmates whose jail term is determined by the courts and without a maximum cap,” the report states. “Without custody alternatives, our jail system will soon exceed its capacity.”
To deal with the influx, L.A. County officials developed a Jail Work Plan that “included exploring various alternative custody models that could potentially offer housing relief for county jail facilities.” The work plan determined that the use of Community Correctional Facilities, or CCFs, like the one in Taft, “was a viable option to provide housing for the (state) inmates with the longest sentences.”
Taft may just be the first, with more to come. The board report says Baca has “entered into discussions with several cities that operate CCFs.”
To read Baca and Fujioka’s full report, click here.