New Inmate Facility

September 9, 2008 9:45:43 PM PDT
Madera County may allow the state to build a five-hundred bed facility to help released inmates make a smoother transition once they're back on their own.The rehabilitation facility would house state prisoners from Madera and Fresno counties during the last year of their sentences. In exchange, Madera County would receive money to expand its own jail.

Madera County is burdened by the same overcrowding that's forcing jails across California to release inmates before they finish their sentences.

Douglas Papagni, Madera Co. Dept. Of Corrections Dir. "We now have a capacity of 419, when I left my office this morning we had 426 inmates in custody."

The county is now eligible to receive 30 million dollars from the state to expand its jail by 144 beds. But the funding comes with conditions.

Douglas Papagni: "One of the requirements was that the county assists the state in sitting a secure re-entry facility that would house state prisoners from Madera County and Fresno County."

State corrections officials say the 500 bed facility will offer programs that help inmates prepare for a productive life after prison ? which makes them less likely to commit crimes in the future. It's also expected to create hundreds of jobs.

Cynthia Delyon, Ca. Dept. Of Corrections & Rehabilitation: "There will be anywhere from 315-325 new jobs that will be available within your county."

Kings County is considering a similar deal that has residents there protesting against putting state prisoners in their own backyard.

"The majority of inmates in both of those facilities are going back to Fresno County."

Madera County resident Dale Drozen also opposes the plan because it would bring hundreds of Fresno County prisoners to Madera. But he says his neighbors aren't aware of that possibility.

Dale Drozen, Madera Co. Resident: "I don't think Madera knows its coming."

Supervisors voted Tuesday to move forward with the plan, but they say the project must clear many hurdles before it's a done deal.

Tom Wheeler, Madera County Supervisor: "It's the very early stages, but I think it's a very good step."

The county and the state will now take a closer look at issues like whether there's even enough water to build the facility next to the jail.

They'll also hold public meetings to give residents a chance to weigh in on the plan.

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