United States: California announces first closure of state prison since 2003

A California assemblymember said nearly $200 million in operating costs will be saved after the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation’s (CDCR) announcement on Friday of the closure of a state prison in Tracy.

The Deuel Vocational Institution in Tracy was chosen for closure based on operating costs, inmate housing needs, impact on the workforce and prioritization of public safety, according to CDCR Secretary Ralph Diaz. According to the CDCR, annual operating costs for the prison are about $182 million.

Assemblymember Phil Ting (D-San Francisco) said the closure will also help the state avoid paying $800 million in “badly needed repairs.”

Here is Ting’s full statement:

“As Chair of the Assembly Budget Committee, I have made it a priority to reverse the aggravating history of allocating more state General Fund money to prisons than to the University of California – especially as crime rates and the prison population have declined.

In 2018, I pushed a budget trailer bill that laid the groundwork for identifying locations that could be closed without risking public safety. In this year’s budget, we committed to the closure of two prisons, one in 2021 and a second in 2022. DVI fits the criteria, and this first shut down will not only save us nearly $200 million a year in operating costs, but also avoids spending $800 million in badly needed repairs.“

The CDCR said in a news release that the closure of a state prison was included in the 2020 multi-year state budget plan, and Diaz said a need to achieve savings and a decline in prison population since 2007 contributed to the state’s decision to close a prison.

Full deactivation of the prison is expected for Sept. 30, 2021. State officials said the Tracy prison, which opened in 1953, houses approximately 1,500 inmates and holds a staff of 1,080 people. The CDCR said it will work with staff on the transition, which may include possible relocations to other prisons. Inmates will be transferred to other facilities based on housing, custody and rehabilitative needs.

According to the CDCR, the last time a state prison in California was closed was the Northern California Women’s Facility in Stockton in 2003.