by Kevin Bliss
In October 2019, the Bureau of Prisons (BOP) announced that it planned to close the Taft Correctional Institution (TCI) by January 31, 2020. The prison in California has had an increasing number of infrastructure problems over the past 15 years. Seismic and geological concerns have affected the education and recreation buildings, and it would require $100 million to repair the facility, which is outside the BOP’s budget.
TCI houses around 1,360 prisoners and employs about 350 people; it is operated by a private company, Management & Training Corp. (MTC). Programs in the education and recreation buildings have been relocated, and Associate Warden Georgia Puentes said the facility was still functioning normally. She hoped to enlist the assistance of local officials to change the BOP’s plan to close the privately-managed prison.
“We are working with [Congressman] Kevin McCarthy’s staff and [State Assemblyman] Vince Fong,” she stated. Fong said it was an important facility for the city of Taft and West Kern County, and the closure would have a significant impact on the local community.
Taft Mayor Dave Noerr and state Senator Shannon Grove were concerned about the TCI employees and the effect closing the prison would have.
“Taft Correctional Institution is an economic driver for our region that creates more than 340 jobs to those who call California’s 16th Senate District home. As more information is released on this situation, our region will need to come together to offer solutions that will minimize the impact of the facility’s closure on the community,” Senator Grove said.
Others were concerned about how the closure would affect prisoners held at TCI. Dr. Debbie Daniels, superintendent and president of West Kern Community College District-Taft College, said closing the prison was “devastating ... not only do we lose a major employer but the prisoners will lose the education that they have been receiving from Taft College.”
The BOP began decreasing the prisoner population at TCI in anticipation of the closure; however, according to an October 31, 2019 news report, the removal of prisoners was suspended until the end of 2019 in response to concerns raised by Rep. McCarthy. During that time, the BOP will conduct a feasibility study on keeping TCI open.
“It sheds some glimmer of hope for those people that are employed out there,” Mayor Noerr stated.
Sources: taftmidwaydriller.com, bakersfieldnow.com, turnto23.com
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