Don Spector, Director of the Prison Law Office: “Prisons are literally crumbling”
Twelve of California’s oldest prisons are in need of repair or replacement, according a state-commissioned study recently made public.
San Quentin State Prison, California’s oldest prison, built in 1852, is one of the 12 prisons that has “exceeded (its) expected useful life,” the private consultant, Kitchell CEM said in its initial report to the state.
The study also included Folsom State Prison, the second oldest prison in California built in 1880, and prisons “repurposed” after use as military housing during World War II.
According to The Associated Press, the Kitchel CEM study does not provide an estimated cost to repair the 12 prisons. It did say, however, that “the projected cost to fix one prison built in 1955 was estimated at more than $763 million.”
“Do the math—11 other prisons,” said Donald Specter, director of the Prison Law Office, a nonprofit that works on major lawsuits concerning inmates’ welfare. “Prisons are literally crumbling.”
“The state committed $260 million over four years to repair leaking roofs at more than two dozen of the state’s 35 prisons, where the cost of overdue maintenance is estimated at more than $1 billion,” the AP reported.
California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation (CDCR) spokeswoman Terry Thornton said the department initiated the study three years ago. “It’s to guide future planning and investment in the department’s infrastructure needs,” she said.
AP reported, “…while a majority of prison buildings and other infrastructure are ‘beyond their useful life,’ they may still be in operational condition,” adding the completion of repairs would allow the prison to operate in the future.
“Decades of deferred maintenance have led to this,” said Specter. “What the state has done is ignore the need to routinely replace some of these critical infrastructure for decades.” He expressed concern that some areas at facilities are possibly uninhabitable, AP reported.
“These prisons have been put through the ringer,” Specter said. “Many of them have not only been inhabited past their useful life, but they put thousands more people in them than they were designed for, so that takes its toll as well.”
Many of the prisons are needed for the CDCR to remain below a population cap of 137.5% of design capacity imposed by federal courts, according
to the AP. “The consultants recommended repairing some buildings but said others, including some housing units, should be replaced.” The AP said California Medical Facility in Vacaville was the only prison provided with a completed estimate of $763.5 million for repairs, and a CDCR medical facility opened six years ago in Stockton had an estimate of $839 million for repairs.
Spending for improvements would have to first get approval from state lawmakers and budget officials, according to the AP.
“Three-quarters of a billion dollars just for one prison,” said Spector, the AP reported. “The price tag is enormous.”