KERN COUNTY - It's a prospect that could bring back more jobs and money to Kern County. The state is considering once again sending prisoners to community correctional facilities in Taft, Delano, and Shafter.
The city-run facilities lost their contracts with the state in 2011 when prison realignment took effect. But now that the state may be required to release 10,000 additional state inmates, county officials say the state is considering using those vacant facilities.
For the last two years, three Kern County community correctional facilities or CCFs sat vacant. Now the state is considering unlocking the potential of city-owned prisons in Delano, Shafter, and Taft.
"If they are willing to harden their facility to make them close to a medium facility I think that there's some room there for the state to work with," said Kern County Sheriff Donny Youngblood.
The state stopped using the facilities in 2011 during its effort to reduce the prison population and comply with a federal mandate, an effort known as prison realignment. Now, prison realignment could open these facilities back up. Based on a failure to comply with the initial order, the Supreme Court may mandate the state release 10,000 additional inmates... inmates that could instead come to Kern County prisons.
"If you add 1,500 to 1,800 beds in CCFs, you can take that off the 10,000," said Sheriff Youngblood.
Sheriff Donny Youngblood met with the state prisons secretary this week and says Secretary Jeffery Beard is open to using the CCFs.
"I told him I appreciated him coming to Kern County and doing what he said he would do," said Sheriff Youngblood.
If the state uses just one CCF, it will make 680 inmate beds available, create 70 jobs and bring $7 million in state funding to the community.
"If we can keep them in a CCF as opposed to releasing them, I think we are going to minimize the number of victims we have," said Sheriff Youngblood.
Officials who heard of the proposal at a Joint Gang Task Force meeting Thursday morning seemed optimistic.
"For them to actually say 'hey now's the time to look at these private prisons,' my question is why didn't they do that in the first place? But, it's thankfulness now because it's not going to add to the problem," said Russell Johnson, Bakersfield City Councilmember.
Opening these facilities depends on whether the Supreme Court mandates California to release additional prisoners. That decision is expected soon.