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Monday, Oct 21 2013 11:04 AM

CDCR, CCA partner up with leasing of Cal City prison

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The prison in California City, the California City Correctional Center, will soon house state inmates after its owner, Corrections Corporation of America, and California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation settled on a three-year lease agreement. Photo courtesy of Corrections Corporation of America

Plans to ameliorate the state's prison overcrowding moved forward Oct. 15 when Corrections Corporation of America announced it struck a deal with California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation to lease out its correctional center in California City to house state inmates.

The state will lease CCCC for a three-year term, with unlimited two-year renewal options, at a rate of $28.5 million annually, according to CCA's press release.

The alliance was originally outlined in Senate Bill 105, which was signed by Gov. Jerry Brown Sept. 12, and which allocates $315 million for the "prison fix" through June 30, 2014.

Of the allocation, CDCR will spend $28.5 million per year on leasing the facility and another $93.5 million on operating costs, said CDCR spokeswoman Dana Simas. The sum amounts to nearly 40 percent of the $315 million budget.

"It is a good chunk," Simas said of the spending.

She contrasted the operating cost with that of a similar state-run facility, which would be $108 million per year.

Inside the Cal City facility, custody officers are busy applying and testing to become state peace officers, according to Simas and confirmed by an anonymous source with ties to CCA.

"The employees who are interested in making the switch to become state employees have been testing all week," the source said.

Simas said, "Any of the custody staff at CCA right now are eligible to become full-fledged peace officers."

Simas said the workers will undergo four weeks of Peace Officer Basic Training, as well as other training, before becoming members of the California Correctional Peace Officers Association.

However, Section 3.03, Exhibit C of the official lease agreement released by CDCR states:

"With respect to the performance of the services identified in this Agreement, the Contractor [CCA] and its employees are and shall be independent contractors and not employees, agents or representatives of CDCR."

Simas was unable to provide clarity on the clause.

Additionally, Pat McConahay, communications director for CalHR -- the state organization that administers the tests and handles the hiring process -- said in a September interview that the playing field is open to all applicants.

"The employees will have to compete in the exam, just like everybody else," she said. "They would not be given any preferential treatment. [The jobs] would be open to anyone [who applied and was successful in the exam process]."

CCPOA officials could not be reached for comment prior to publication.

Simas estimated the total custody staff would number 352 upon full activation, with 281 being correctional officers. Posted on the state's jobs site, Jobs.Ca.gov, are about 50 openings specifically for the Cal City facility. Most of the positions are listed as full time and permanent. The state appears to be seeking mostly maintenance workers, health care workers, cooks and adminstrative/clerical, but also openings for one captain and one sergeant.

Lease payments are expected to begin Dec. 1. Current federal inmates at the Cal City prison are in the process of being relocated, according to Simas. She said she hopes to begin moving state inmates in as soon as possible.

Through the lease term, CCA will be responsible for maintenance and $10 million in tenant improvements at no additional cost to the CDCR, as stated by the company's press release.

With the Jan. 27, 2014, deadline looming for reducing state-wide inmate populations to 137.5 percent of capacity, CDCR is in a crunch to relocate about 9,600 inmates. Simas said once the inmates are moved to CCCC, the state will still need to transfer about 4,000 more to meet the court-ordered capacity cap.

The state expects to transfer 2,381 low to medium Level 2 adult male inmates who are currently in California state prisons to CCCC. Per the prison's website, the facility is of medium/maximum security caliber and has 2,304 beds. Simas said the state plans to double-cell the inmates, which CCA was not previously doing with its federal inmates.

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