Meyers, officials from California City (population 8,000) and state senator Richard Polanco (D-Los Angeles) held a July 31, 1997, news conference in Sacramento to announce plans to open the "top-of-the-line" medium security prison within two years. And California might be the perfect location to exploit this new "build it and they will come" corporate strategy.
The state prison system, already overcrowded at nearly double its design capacity, is expected to exhaust all possible bed space by 2000, Polanco said. California voters have rejected general obligation bonds for more prison construction, and the legislature has defeated the use of lease revenue bonds.
"We don't know enough about it to have a position one way or another," said CDC media-wrangler Tip Kindel. However he added: "If someone comes and says 'Hey, we've got some beds,' we're always open to talk about it."
Mike Jimenez, executive vice president of the powerful California Correctional Peace Officers Association (CCPOA), the union representing prison guards, swiftly criticized the plan. "We think meting public safety out to the lowest bidder is a recipe for disaster,'' said Jimenez.
Meyers said wages for the estimated 400 employees at the California City prison will be "competitive." [However, he added: "If California's paying $50,000 a year [salary for CDC guards], of course we will pay less."
California City officials, who have been trying to attract a prison to the site since 1986, said they think the $80 million to $100 million facility will benefit their community, bringing both new property taxes and jobs to the area.
If the CDC doesn't agree to house prisoners in the corporate prison, CCA could import prisoners from the federal prison system or overcrowded county jails, a Polanco spokesperson said.
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