Because the State of California did such a poor job managing our prison system (e.g., 200% capacity, 70% recidivism), the State was ordered by the U.S. Supreme Court to reduce the prison population, forcing at least 30,000 so-called “low level” criminals in State prisons to be transferred to County jails. Over the objections of several groups, including the California State Sheriff’s Association and the Public Policy Institute of California, the State’s response to this challenge is to spend Billions of dollars to expand the County jail system. Despite the fact that alternative measures were approved and recommended, almost all of the funds being spent will be spent on bricks and mortar solutions, a solution already known to be insufficient given the recent U.S. Supreme Court decision.
As of September 2012, nearly two dozen building projects were in the works which, when completed, will mean more than 10,000 new beds for criminals in County jails. Here are some interesting factoids about these new projects and, more importantly for the citizens of Lake Forest, about the new jail that is going to be built on the grounds of Musick Jail.
Over the 20+ projects approved and funded by the State, the average number of beds being built is 456 (range 42 to 1270) and the average cost per bed is $186,035 (range $80,000 to $262,267). The new Musick Jail addition is larger than average (512 vs. 456) and more expensive than average to build ($195,312 vs. $186,035).
Less than a third of the 20+ projects involve a new building. All the rest of the projects involve expanding or replacing an existing structure. Musick Jail is one of the few projects where a new building is being proposed.
Nearly two thirds of the 20+ projects involve maximum security inmates. As far as the State knows, Musick Jail does not involve maximum security inmates. The most recent State AB 900 progress report (Sept 2012) notes that Orange County is slated for “512 medium security beds and related ancillary space.” Only by reading the MOU between Lake Forest and the Sheriff do we learn that the Sheriff plans to place maximum security inmates into Musick, apparently unbeknownst to the State who is funding the project.
Most of the nearly two dozen projects are being built in relatively isolated areas, some miles away from the nearest home, business, or office building. Of all these projects, no project is being built closer to existing occupied spaced than Musick, which now abuts the commercial space along the North side of Bake Parkway and sits within 1,000 feet of residential property.
Most of the new projects are being built next to areas where the home prices are modest, to say the least. No other county is building or renovating any prison/jail structure that sits in a more expensive area than Musick Jail. The average home price for homes closest to the new projects is slightly under $250,000. The average price of homes for sale near Musick is $602,078.
Here are the figures for the average home price for homes closest to the some of the proposed prison/jail additions -
• Orange County (Lake Forest) - $602,078
• Santa Barbara (Santa Maria) - $414,631
• Los Angeles (Castaic) - $353,057
• San Diego (Santee) - $281,505
• Solano (Fairfield) - $185,740
• Madera (Madera) - $99,969
• Calaveras (San Andreas) - $98,355
• Kern (Bakersfield) - $91,653
• San Bernardino (Adelanto) - $89,360
It should be clear to see that the Musick Jail project is an outlier. Compared to the rest of the AB 900 prisons construction projects, Musick Jail is more expensive on a cost per bed basis, proposes to add more inmates, proposes to build a stand-alone facility while others add or replace to existing buildings, is being built closest to existing occupied space, and is being built next to the most expensive homes in the State by more than double the value.
Orange County may need to expand its ability to handle inmates, but the selection of Musick Jail is a poor choice indeed.
Next week on December 11 the Board of Supervisors will consider ratifying the plans for Musick. There is still time to go to their website and voice your opposition, or show up at the meeting and testify against the move.