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Friday, August 9, 2013

California seeks private prison deals

LA TimesGov. Jerry Brown's administration is discussing deals to lease more than 4,600 private and publicly owned prison beds in California, inching the state toward compliance with federal court orders to reduce crowding in its own lockups.

Proposals include a 2,400-bed prison operated by Corrections Corp. of America in the Mojave Desert, 1,200 beds at two low-security prisons owned by GEO Group, and room for some 1,000 more inmates in jails in Alameda County and a city-owned prison in Kern County.

Top officials with the state prison guard union -- traditionally an opponent to privatized prisons -- said the governor has little choice.

"He's pretty well painted into a situation where he has no options left," said Joe Baumann, chapter president of the California Correctional Peace Officers Assn.

At least some of the negotiations were underway even before the U.S. Supreme Court last week rejected Brown's request for more time to appeal prison crowding orders.

The state in May awarded a $134-million contract to GEO Group for use of 1,200 beds within two of the company's California prisons -- but that contract is being protested by another bidder, the Kern County town of Shafter.

State prison chief Jeffrey Beard then came to inspect Shafter's city-owned prison in mid-July, with an eye toward giving them prisoners too, officials there said. The community's bid was $65 million to house some 560 inmates.

The town is eager move forward with improvements to the city's dorm-style facility that would allow it to accommodate state inmates. continue reading...

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