LOS ANGELES (KTLA) – The California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation is moving forward with a plan to close a prison in Riverside County, deactivate several other facilities and discontinue the use of another property that is currently being used as a prison.
The prison that will be closing is Chuckawalla Valley State Prison, one of two prisons in Blythe, with a targeted closing date set at March 2025.
The decision to close Chuckawalla was made at Gov. Gavin Newsom’s direction, alongside declining inmate numbers and budgetary reasons, as CDCR focuses on “fiscal responsibility” with its use of state prisons.
Chuckawalla sits on about 125 acres of land and was opened in 1987. It currently holds about 2,050 inmates.
CDCR will also not renew its $32 million lease on the California City Correctional Facility in Kern County. The state leases the property and staffs it with CDCR employees. With news of the termination of the lease, the prison will be effectively closed by March 2024.
California City Correctional Facility is the only property that CDCR leases for use as a prison. Newsom has pledged on multiple occasions to stop California’s use of private prisons.
The state has leased the facility since 2013 when the state was dealing with overcrowding at its state-owned prison facilities. The facility currently holds about 1,925 inmates.
Chuckawalla and California City prisons were chosen to be shuttered after CDCR evaluated the cost of keeping them open. Several factors were evaluated including cost to operate, housing needs for all population, long-term investments and the likelihood of overcrowding at other facilities.
New laws in the California books, as well as the rise of COVID-19, have led to reduced inmate totals across the state.
Six prisons across the state will also see changes in the near future as CDCR plans to deactivate some of the facilities within the prisons.
The affected facilities are:
- Folsom Women’s Facility
- California Men’s Colony (West)
- California Rehabilitation Center (A yard)
- California Institution for Men (D yard)
- Pelican Bay State Prison (C yard)
- California Correctional Institution (D yard)
Those facilities are expected to completely deactivated by the end of 2023 or sooner, with the caveat that they could be reopened if needed in the future.
California has already moved to shut down two other state prisons, including the Lassen County Prison which is set to close next June, and the Deuel Vocational Institution in San Joaquin County, which was closed in September 2021.
Gov. Newsom said the State of California has plans to help workers and community members impacted by the closures of both Lassen County and Chuckawalla. His administration says it plans to work directly with “stakeholders in Riverside County to help support workers and foster a bottom-up economic resilience plan for the community impacted” by the closure of the Riverside County prison.
Amber-Rose Howard, executive director of Californians United for a Responsible Budget (CURB), which is an organization focused on prison reform, said the organization supported the decision to close the prisons and discontinue the lease in California City.
“Our community applauds this move toward reversing California’s terrible history of prison expansion,” Howard said. “We hope yard deactivations are done safely, and that they are an indication of the future prison closures we all know are possible over the next several years.”