Previously we talked about crime per se, but there is another threat to public safety in Lake Forest that is even more troubling. In March 2012 the OC Sheriff announced that $100,000,000 had been secured for the expansion of the Musick Jail and the addition of more than 500 beds. Assistant Sheriff Mike James described the new facility as a “maximum security jail”. Only Irvine was vocal in its opposition. The City of Lake Forest was curiously silent.
500+ maximum security beds coming to a jail in Lake Forest?
Let’s take a step back to see what’s going on.
Musick Jail sits on 100 county acres between the cities of Irvine and Lake Forest. You can see Musick Jail from Bake Parkway at the intersection of Bake and So. Pointe Drive near Trabuco.
For many years Musick was a quiet little facility affectionately referred to as “the farm”. It held less than 1,000 minimum security prisoners serving time for offenses like DUI, minor drug possession, and prostitution.
In case you didn’t know it, Lake Forest doesn’t have its own police force, as do many larger cities. Instead we contract with the County to use members of the OC Sheriff’s Department (OCSD). They are assigned to us and we have our own Chief, who is also a member of OCSD. In addition to being in charge of the officers, the Sheriff is also in control of the jails.
Beds for Feds
About two years ago the new OC Sheriff announced a “beds for feds” program. She brought to our City illegal aliens who were convicted criminals who served their sentences and were waiting to be deported from the U.S. These criminals were under the authority of Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), but held by the Sheriff. Although the Sheriff claimed they would be “no worse” than the felons who were currently at Musick, announcements from ICE said: “ICE is focusing efforts first and foremost on the most dangerous criminal aliens currently charged with, or previously convicted of, the most serious criminal offenses. ICE will give priority to those offenses including, crimes involving national security, homicide, kidnapping, assault, robbery, sex offenses, and narcotics violations carrying sentences of more than one year.” (ICE Secure Communities Fact Sheet)
The first phase of the program called for 366 beds and the second phase calls for 720 beds. According to ICE, the average time to process detainees is approximately every 30 days. That means each bed will be occupied by 12 criminals per year. So 366 beds x 12 criminals per year occupying each bed = 4,392 criminals coming into and out of Musick each year in Phase 1, and 720 x 12 = 8,640 per year in Phase 2.
According to the Sheriff`s Department, the average length of stay for prisoners in the Jail system (they don`t have separate info for Musick) indicates that each bed is occupied approximately twice per year. That means that with less than 1,000 inmates, Musick serves about 2,000 inmates this year. BUT with the new ICE program, that number will rise to 6,000 +. The bottom line - the ICE program will increase the number of inmates at Musick during a year by 3 fold.
Change in Convicts
As if the addition of dangerous illegal alien felons was not enough, in December 2011 the Sheriff announced that a new plan for Musick will change Musick from a minimum to a medium security facility.
(BTW - the Sheriff makes a point of stressing that Musick`s current prisoners are "minimum security" and that the ICE prisoners are also minimum security. What she doesn`t tell you is that minimum security is not a designation that predicts a person`s level of dangerousness to the community, but merely describes whether or not the staff believe the prisoner will be a problem while in jail. IOW, a minimum security prisoner may nonetheless pose a substantial risk to the community if he or she escapes. So while it`s comforting to the staff at Musick to be dealing with minimum security prisoners, there is absolutely no assurance that if one of these prisoners escapes, he/she may not commit violent crimes as soon as they get out!)
A story in the OC Register in September 2012 said -
“Orange County jails are becoming increasingly dangerous as they fill with inmates who are more violent, more seasoned and staying longer….”
“Now, deputies in Musick have found inmates organizing in the minimum-security jail, Garcia said. They are attempting to assert their dominance and tax other inmates. When they are discovered, they are transferred to one of the other jails."
"You now have a more sophisticated type of inmate… Our deputies have had to be more proactive. It's not as laid back as it used to be."
On top of this, the newest program calls for a 500 bed maximum security prison. So whatever concerns we had about the mis-labeling of “minimum security” can be thrown away now that we are dealing with maximum security felons.
A few years ago Lake Forest had a small, truly minimum security facility that was affectionately called “the farm” and that housed relatively harmless people who were serving time for minor offenses. This has changed and is in the process of changing again, raising significantly the numbers of criminals, raising significantly their threat level, and raising significantly the classification of the jail. All of this is happening within a few hundred yards of residential housing, and the City is not merely doing nothing about it, they are endorsing it. We'll talk about this in Part 2.