California state budget includes decision to close another prison

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Buried in the recently passed California state budget bill is a provision to close a state prison in the small northern town of Susanville by exempting state correctional facilities from environmental reviews.

Assembly Bill (AB) 200 designates state public safety spending for fiscal year 2022-23 and sets a closing date of June 30, 2023, exactly one year after the budget was signed, for the California Correctional Center (CCC).

Legislative decision follows a lawsuit by the town of Susanville deposit in July 2021 to stop the closure of the prison.

“What happens at the end of the budget process is a bunch of policies put in place by the legislature and the governor that may have very little to do with the budget specifically,” Lanhee Chen, a professor at the University from Stanford and a state candidate. Controller, told The Epoch Times on July 8.

The lawsuit against the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation (CDCR) and Governor Gavin Newsom claimed the prison closure violated the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA) and the California Penal Code. A Lassen County Superior Court judge granted a preliminary injunction in August 2021 to stay the shutdown.

“[AB 200] changed the rules so that the city of Susanville has no standing now,” Sen. Brian Dahle (R-Bieber), whose senatorial district includes Susanville, told The Epoch Times on July 13. on the previous law and changed the law.

A sign on the road leading to the California Correctional Center in Susanville, California. (Courtesy of the Town of Susanville)

Lack of communication

Although Newsom signed the budget bill on June 30, Department of Corrections spokeswoman Dana Simas told The Epoch Times that the court’s preliminary injunction is still in effect.

“Departmental closure activities for CCC continue to be suspended at this time due to ongoing litigation,” Simas wrote in an emailed statement. “We will notify our staff, prison population and stakeholders of any updates or changes.”

CDCR began its environmental review under the CEQA earlier this year with plans to prepare an environmental impact report on the closure of CCC. The original review notice indicated that the closure would likely be reduce air pollution, greenhouse gas emissions and energy consumption, among other resources.

Susanville City Administrator Dan Newton told NTD Television last year that city and jail employees had not received advance notice of the decision to close the CCC. The city filed a public record request to understand why the jail was selected, but residents and city officials said they have not yet received the requested documents.

“We haven’t had any luck getting answers, but we know it’s more political than anything,” Dahle said. “What’s really unfortunate is that it really hurts the community. This is the main revenue driver.

Susanville Jail workers, who are represented by SEIU Local 1000, protested the state capitol’s closure last year, criticizing the CDCR’s lack of communication in selecting which facilities to close .

According to the CDCR report of July 6, the CCC holds 2,300 inmates and is capable of employing 3,487 people. The CCC is one of ten state prisons that currently hold fewer prisoners than its intended capacity.

Epoch Times Photo
Susanville Mayor Mendy Schuster waits to speak at a rally in Sacramento, Calif., on Aug. 27, 2021. (Cynthia Cai/The Epoch Times)

A loss of jobs and firefighters

newsom recommended to reduce the state’s prison population to prevent overcrowding and limit the transmission of COVID-19 during the pandemic. His administration successfully closed the Deuel Vocational Institution (DVI) in Tracy last September.

In addition to DVI and CCC, the state could soon close three other prisons, according to Newsom’s budget plan from earlier this year. It has yet to identify which prisons could be selected, but the California Legislative Analyst’s Office (LAO) had recommended closing a total of five state prisons by 2025, a move that could save the state money. 1.5 billion dollars a year.

However, the AJO suggested the state avoids closing prisons with specialized missions — which would include the CCC with its mission of fire conservation camps — because of the impacts such closures could have on statewide operations. The CCC works with several fire camps, including the nearby Antelope Conservation Camp, to train low-level inmates to become firefighters.

“These inmates can get out of jail and go get a job at CalFire,” Dahle said. “It’s a great way to change their lives.”

State lawmakers pointed out in early June that the state had experienced a lessen of approximately 4,200 detained firefighters over the past decade.

In the same LAO report, of the 12 oldest state prisons, the CCC was bottom of the list at 11th in cost to repair and maintain.

The prison is one of the main economic resources of Susanville. Mayor Mendy Schuster told The Epoch Times last year that CCC was the second-largest employer, meaning losing the prison could lead to an even greater decrease in the city’s population and economic stability.

The Corrections Department said some employees may be transferred to High Desert State Prison, a high-security state prison.

The closure of the CCC is expected to take place unless new legislation is passed in next year’s legislative session.

The Epoch Times contacted Governor Newsom’s office for comment.

Cynthia Cai

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Cynthia is a San Francisco Bay Area-based journalist covering Northern California news.

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