The California Correctional Institution has gotten a little emptier thanks to Assembly Bill 109, also known as California's Prison Realignment Plan.
Acting Warden Kim Holland announced at last week's monthly Tehachapi Economic Development Council meeting that 76 staff members both from the custody and the non-custody ranks have been let go.
Sixty-four of those layoffs were correctional officers, 20 of which were offered a transition 4B plan, allowing them to relocate to one of the various valley prisons as part-time employees.
"We've been going through our staffing phase since last October," said Holland. "We've gone through two waves and are now at the end of the second wave."
Along with the transition plan, some displaced staff members also received assistance from the Employment Development Department and the United Way, as well as a 2-1-1 program Community Action Partnership from Kern County. All of which played an integral role in assisting staff with things like paying utilities, and providing resources for re-employment.
All staff members that were laid off were also added on the prison's re-employment list.
"We will always need to employ people," Holland said. "We will look at hiring them back prior to hiring somebody from the street or picking up somebody new."
Holland also said that she appreciates the community's support.
"We know its not an easy time for you as well, given the fact of dealing with some of the ramifications of things," she said. "Just know that we didn't open up the gates and just let them out. We'll continue to move forward and see how this new vote is going to impact us with the other process as far as the three strikes."
The brighter side
Amid the recent gloom of cutbacks, there were a few bright spots; specifically that the prison's solar plant is on track.
Second, was the hiring of a new wastewater grade four operator, which Holland said was huge for the institution's ability to continue to distribute disinfected tertiary recycled water for irrigation of Stallion Springs golf course, as well as mitigate any fines that the State would have imposed for not having the required staff.
At the meeting, Holland also introduced John Blanch, Community Resource Manager for CCI, who provides self-help groups and assists with the rehabilitation of inmates before they are released back into the community.
"We're really seeing people that are prepared to deal with the issues and become a citizen as opposed to an inmate," said Holland.
Branch's program, which consists of nine groups that meet Monday through Thursday, is allowed to have up to 27 fundraisers per year to benefit the community and several of its non-profits by soliciting donations within their yard from inmates who purchase items with money in their trust accounts.
"We purchase the products (for these fundraisers) from the businesses in the community," said Branch who plans on bringing more groups on line in the future.
"And when you have 1,000 people in the yard it's a significant amount of money going back to the community."