Irvine calls for public hearing on prison expansion

Some Irvine, Calif. Councilors are calling on the Orange County Board of Governors (BOS) to hold a public forum before expanding the James A. Musick prison facility.

The facility, which has been empty since July 2019 and is no longer in operation, is currently under construction after the BOS unanimously approved a construction contract to expand the facility on May 5, 2020. The expansion will create two new residential structures and 896 new beds. The prison is primarily intended for people with mental health problems and drug abuse and has a total of around 2,200 beds.

The prison is just a hair away from Irvine in Orange County’s unincorporated land that gives authority to the BOS. Even though it’s not within city limits, according to Irvine councilors, it still has an Irvine address as it has been classified by the postal system.

The city council will vote at its May 11 meeting on whether to approve a motion that urges the BOS to allow the community to raise concerns about the planned expansion.

Irvine Vice Mayor Tammy Kim, who sponsored the bill, said she decided to act on the matter after hearing the views of residents who opposed expanding the facility for various reasons.

“Many residents have come to us and I share their concern. And I think if the Board wants to continue down this path it should have a public meeting to discuss this.

“It’s a complex topic. Clearly, is this how we need to spend our top tax dollars? Number two, do we want to see an expanded prison facility in our town? Is this in line with our morals and values? And number three, is incarceration the way to move forward when we talk about people suffering from mental health and substance abuse? “

According to a group against the expansion called Stop the Musick, the four Orange County prisons currently open are 70 percent full, and if the musick facility were to reopen at its previous capacity, capacity would be only 53 percent. This would be reduced to 45 percent capacity if the music system were upgraded to its current plan.

The project is expected to cost $ 261 million to build. Annual operating costs are estimated at $ 61.5 million.

Irvine Councilor Anthony Kuo said that if the public wants it, he doesn’t necessarily see a problem with holding a public forum, although it is not Irvine’s decision to make.

“This project is quite a long way off in terms of process so I suspect it is [the Board of Supervisors] did what they need to do about public relations and held public hearings. That is, if the church asks, what is the resistance to a hearing? “

In Kuo’s view, decisions about the prison should be left to the county as the facility is located outside of Irvine’s city limits.

“To the extent that, on behalf of a number of residents, we ask the county to look into this and hold some hearings, it is really up to them to do so,” he said. “But I’ve looked at the resolution, I’m not entirely satisfied with the language, but we have to see where the conversation is going on Tuesday.”

Kuo said he doesn’t think the expansion is a waste of money as there is a lot of government funding involved, and if they don’t use the grants to expand the prison, the money will simply go to a different jurisdiction.

“The fact is, I think many of those who have asked about this public forum and brought up this topic, at least through their comments, do not necessarily believe that they are against the Musick Prison. “he said.” You are against the prison component of the criminal justice system as a whole. You just don’t want prisons. “

The Epoch Times reached out to all five regulators, and none were available in time for publication to comment.

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