At their Tuesday meeting, the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors voted to approve transferring a proposed expansion of Pitchess Detention Center in Castaic to Mira Loma Detention Center in Lancaster. The motion was passed 4-0, with Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas abstaining.
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The proposed Women’s Village Project at Pitchess was originally approved by the board on a recommendation from Sheriff Lee Baca, and expected to be completed by early 2016.
Transferring the project to Mira Loma allows room for more beds, including a transitional facility and lowers the net cost to the county.
In addition, the Mira Loma facility is unencumbered by property rights concerns.
A review of the Pitchess facility revealed “easements by Southern California Edison and Vintage Oil Corporation (that) required significant time to resolve and delayed the County’s compliance with this State requirement,” according to Baca’s letter to the Board.
The original project would have been partially funded by a $100 million grant from Board of State and Community Corrections under AB 900.
Despite Ridley-Thomas’ caution that the Supervisors develop a comprehensive jail plan before voting on any one decision, the transfer was approved in order to maintain that AB 900 funding.
The BSCC Board must receive the transfer request by their Nov. 13 meeting or the county risks losing the funds altogether.
Because the Mira Loma facility also has room for reentry housing, the county is eligible for an additional grant under SB 1022. An application is due by Thursday, Oct. 24.
The revised project allows for 1,840 beds, including 236 reentry beds. This is 684 more than the 1,156 beds for female inmates originally planned at Pitchess.
It is also expected that with both AB 900 and SB 1022 grants, the county would only need to pull $10 million from the general fund, instead of nearly $100 million.
Assistant Sheriff Terri McDonald said that Baca is supportive of the transfer, citing the need for extra beds and the overcrowding of female prisoners in the county jail system.
“We currently have almost 2600 females,” she said.
The Century Regional Detention Facility in Lynwood also currently houses 160 percent of it’s capacity, according to McDonald.
Ridley Thomas still worried that transferring the project without a comprehensive plan was essentially putting “the cart before the horse.”
Supervisor Michael Antonovich mentioned that he was in favor of the motion.
“I support this proposal, because it leverages grant funds to revise an existing facility,” he said.
He also mentioned the cost-effectiveness of the project, which take less money from the county general fund.
The Board’s decision on Tuesday, does not represent a final approval of the Women’s Village Project.
The next step for county staff is to submit a due diligence package regarding the real estate at the Mira Loma site. This is expected to be completed by December.
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Source: Santa Clarita News