How many prisons in one city is too many? A lot of people would probably say one—for their city.
Adelanto (pop.31,304), in the high desert of San Bernardino County, has three, just OK’d a fourth and was giving serious consideration to a fifth. But on Wednesday, Geo Group Inc. dropped its plans for a 1,051-bed facility in the face of community opposition on the eve of a City Council vote that was not expected to go their way.
They indicated they will be back at a more fortuitous time to pursue building the facility that received preliminary city approval in 2006. In the meantime, Geo is going nowhere.
The company operates the Adelanto Detention Facility, which is actually two separate facilities. Geo bought the original prison, a state facility built in 1991, in 2010 and built a second prison in 2012. The company signed a contract with the U .S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) in 2011 and has been housing immigration detainees there since.
In December, the city gave final approval to construction of a $327-million, 3,264-bed prison that the city fathers hoped would house an overflow of prisoners from crowded Los Angeles County jails. The state’s 2-year-old realignment program shifts the flow of nonviolent, nonserious offenders from grossly overcrowded state prisons—under court supervision—to already-overcrowded county jails.
Capital & Main reporter Jim Crogan found a heavy dose of skepticism in the Inland Empire that the facility would be built. The complicated deal hinges on the L.A. County Board of Supervisors signing off ahead of time of the prisoner transfer and there are no indications that will happen anytime soon. Vincent Harris, chief deputy to Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas, told Crogan,
“Wouldn’t you think it would be a good idea to at least try and get a letter of support from L.A.’s sheriff or the Chief Executive Office of L.A. County regarding sending them prisoners before they would go forward with this kind of proposal? No one up there has done anything like that.”
The City Council got a lot of heat over the latest prison construction controversies from inside and outside the community. But prisons are a significant source of income for the tiny city with an imposing $2.6-million budget deficit. As Bloomberg pointed out, Adelanto has more prisons than supermarkets.
But, perhaps sensing the city may already be overdoing a good thing, newly-elected Councilman Charley Glasper called for a measure on the November ballot asking if residents want a 50-year moratorium on prison building. “We’re at the crossroads of decisions on prisons. I’ve heard the comments from citizens in Adelanto and down the hill,” the Victorville Daily Press reported him saying. “Personally, deep down inside—yes, I think we do have enough prisons in Adelanto.”
Glasper voted in favor of the latest prison project in December. “We do need this to pull ourselves out of the revenue crunch we’re in,” he said.