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February 20, 2007
HDSP sends inmates to private institutions outside the state
SUSANVILLE, California (STPNS) -- At least one of Susanville?s prisons is shipping inmates out to private institutions in other states to help ease chronic overcrowding.
With California?s inmate population at crisis levels, the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation announced on Feb. 2 that phase two involuntary transfers of inmates had begun to ease severe overcrowding.
The first phase of the project began in November 2006 with the voluntary transfer of inmates. Involuntary transfers of inmates will begin in the next few months.
Charles Bolls, an administrative assistant with High Desert State Prison, said 30 inmates from the Susanville facility have transferred voluntarily to institutions outside the state. He said HDSP has identified another 30 inmates who meet the criteria for involuntary transfers, but those inmates are at HDSP for now.
Bolls said most of the inmates selected for involuntary transfer are Mexican nationals or illegal immigrants.
?As soon as we identify a person who meets the state?s criteria, we starting working to get them out of here,? Bolls said. ?We still have some inmates voluntarily requesting a transfer, so it?s an on-going process.?
?We?re still in the process of identifying and screening inmates who meet the criteria to be moved involuntarily,? said Bill Sessa, a spokesman for CDCR. ?We?ll be moving medium security inmates because that?s where our overcrowding is and it matches up with facilities in other states.?
Sessa said maximum security and minimum security inmates, such as those at the California Correctional Center, would not be transferred.
An executive order signed by California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger last October makes inmates with an immigration hold already in place the top priority for transfer. Sessa said those inmates would be turned over to the immigration service and never put on parole.
He also noted inmates are housed according to their security levels, and said, ?not all beds are equal.?
While some level two inmates are housed in a dorm setting in gyms and other non-traditional areas in a facility, Sessa said level two inmates ideally would be housed in a dorm-type environment anyway.
?Our goal is to get inmates out of what we call bad beds,? Sessa said. He said housing inmates in non-traditional areas is not good for the rehabilitation process and it is not good for the safety of the inmates and the correctional facility staff.
Moving inmates to out-of-state facilities could help avert a very real crisis when the prisons run out of beds and transfer inmates to county jails ? creating an overcrowding problem there, too, he said.
?The ultimate goal is to transfer 5,000 inmates,? Sessa said, ?but that?s not the long-term solution. The long-term solution is to design facilities where an inmate learns enough life skills he doesn?t come back.?
California?s prison population has exploded. According to a release from CDCR, California?s prison population currently stands at about 174,000 inmates ? the highest in history. Approximately 16,000 of those inmates are currently housed in triple bunks in gymnasiums and day rooms, common areas that were never intended to house inmates.
The overcrowding problems seen across the state have jammed the institutions here in Susanville, too.
According to figures released last month by California State Senator Dave Cox, HDSP has 5,467 inmates, but the facility was designed to house only 2,324. The other 2,802 inmates ? 2,022 in overcrowding beds and 780 in non-traditional areas such as gyms and day rooms ? are housed in areas never intended for that purpose.
According to Cox?s figures, CCC has 6,718 inmates, but the facility was designed to house only 3,883. The other 2,435 inmates ? 1,841 in overcrowding beds and 594 in non-traditional beds ? are housed in areas never intended for that purpose.
Cox said Schwarzenegger has proposed nearly $11 billion to increase the state?s prison and jail capacity by 78,000 beds. Cox said $82.4 million was earmarked for HDSP and $38.4 million for CCC.
HDSP would get 350 new beds in two Administrative Segregation buildings and CCC would get 400 new beds, if the governor?s budget proposal is approved and implemented.
?We will continue to seek volunteer inmates who are willing to serve their sentences in other states,? said CDCR Secretary James E. Tilton. ?But we also will begin to move inmates involuntarily so they are no longer sleeping in gymnasiums, dayrooms and other inappropriate areas of the prisons and to delay the possibility of running out of beds for new inmates, which would create a public safety problem in our communities.
?We are severely overcrowded and the need for more space is absolutely critical. These transfers allow us to improve the safety of inmates and correctional officers while avoiding the potential of being unable to accept new inmates. This decision is being made to protect the public safety.?
The involuntary transfers are expected to begin in 60 to 90 days.
The inmates will be transferred to privately-operated correctional facilities in Mississippi, Arizona and Oklahoma. Each inmate transferred will be housed in a secure, private correctional facility with other inmates from California, and the facilities are required by contract to be consistent with all CDCR procedures and California law.
CDCR has signed contracts with the GEO Group, Inc., of Florida and the Correctional Corporation of America, headquartered in Nashville, Tenn.
In November 80 inmates voluntarily transferred to the West Tennessee Detention Facility operated by CCA. Since then, approximately 300 additional inmates have moved to the Florence Detention Center in Arizona.
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