Prison officialsgrilled by residents Desert Dispatch - Barstow, CA
RYAN DAUGHERTY/Staff Writer
BARSTOW � Representatives of two private companies trying to build a federal prison in Lenwood perhaps felt a bit like Gore attorney David Boies
after a meeting Wednesday night.
A largely unsympathetic crowd peppered spokesmen from Wackenhut
Corrections Corp. and Cornell Corrections Inc. with questions ranging from residency requirements for workers to what would prevent the federal Bureau of Prisons from changing the proposed 1,500-bed minimum
security facility to a medium or maximum security facility later on.
�I think you�re trying to sell us a pig in a poke,� said Barstow resident Chuck Monds to enthusiastic applause. Monds said a friend of his who worked for the Bureau of Prisons said supervisors encouraged prison workers to live 30 minutes away in order to calm down after the job, and not take the day�s frustrations out on their families. Neither side denied his claim.
Both sides say approximately 250 to 300 new jobs would be created if a
prison is built, and that the federal Department of Labor�s starting wage of $21.82 an hour for correctional officers � the highest paying entry-level job
at either prison � would be strictly adhered to.
Neither company can guarantee those new workers will choose to live in Barstow, although experience has shown that many will, said Ray Andrews, warden of the Taft Correctional Institution which is currently run by Wackenhut.
Andrews said any workers wishing to collect overtime will likely live in Barstow, as they are the first to be called when overtime work is needed. He also said the Taft facility averaged $100,000 a month in local spending,
a large boon to Taft�s economy � a tiny town of about 6,500. He and approximately half of his staff at Taft live locally, he said, while the other
Workers not living in Barstow might be a problem, said Don Little, a real estate broker for the City of Industry-based Overland Co., a general partner in Overland Lenwood Limited Partnership. In 1995 purchased the 1,200-plus acres of land in Lenwood that both prison proposals are slated to occupy.
�Until there�s something to make it (the city) market-driven to make somebody come in and do some building, I think some people will still drive out to Apple Valley or Victorville or likely probably to Spring Valley Lake,� he said.
City Economic Development Coordinator Jeanette Hayhurst said a new
upscale housing development is in the works that could bring around 200 higher-end homes to a 500-acre site near H Street and Rimrock Road.
�One of the motivators I see (for developers) to build here is they see jobs coming to the area,� Hayhurst said.
Both companies said they would give first preference to local workers. George Killinger, a development director for Cornell, said �vendor fairs�
would be held to select from the local employment pool and to develop supply contracts with local vendors.
While admitting nothing prevented the federal government from later changing the proposed prison to a higher level of security, both sides said the process would require another conditional use permit from the city Planning Commission and approval by the City Council.
As to the question of whether or not an additional 750 toilets and sinks would affect the local water supply, both sides said studies had proved water would abound.
Wackenhut is proposing a 64-acre facility between Jasper and Agate roads on the west side of Lenwood Road, while Cornell�s proposal covers 79 acres in the same location. Both proposals would house only legal and illegal aliens convicted of lower-level drug offenses or immigration violations. No inmate with a sentence of more than five years would be housed.
Killinger said the average sentence would be about 18 months, and that all prisoners would be deported at the end of their sentence.
For more information about the proposal, contact the Site Selection and Environmental Review Branch, U.S. Dept. of Justice, Federal Bureau of Prisons, 320 First St., N.W. Washington, D.C., 20534. The telephone number is (202) 514-6470 and e-mail is firstname.lastname@example.org.