Wednesday, September 03, 2008

Shut up and take it.

I set out to write this story from an objective point of view. Try as I may, I find I cannot.

The turnout for the public meeting to hear about the proposed re-entry facility Tuesday night was so large, at the last minute they moved it to the Esparto high school auditorium. I did a quick two-by-two head count and I estimate that close to 200 residents attended the meeting.

On the panel were Yolo County Supervisors, Matt Rexroad, Helen Thomson, Yolo County Sheriff Ed Prieto and 3 members of the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation. Also in attendance, but not on the panel was 5th district Supervisor Duane Chamberlain. During the first twenty minutes of the meeting, the representatives from the CDCR explained the origins and purpose of the 500 bed re entry facility, as well as the existing manner in which current Yolo County parolees are released back into the community. At that time, the meeting was opened to questions from the public and they came fast and sometimes furious.

Why Esparto or Madison? Has the County exhausted all possible site in more urban areas? Will there be inmates from other neighboring Counties housed in the facilities? Why build it next to a school? What about traffic? What about the fact there is no public water and sewer services near the property in question? Of the parolees in this 500 bed facility, how many will be from Esparto or Madison? A half a dozen? The residents of this community were upset and it showed as comments and questions were shouted from those inside the auditorium. For those on the panel, they must have been waiting for the people to break out the torches and pitchforks.

I would like to apologize for the lack of decorum at the meeting, but I will not.

To understand the frustration felt by the citizens of the Capay Valley, you must understand what we have experienced in our dealings with Yolo County. It seems whenever someone comes to the County and says they have a huge amount of money to give them, if they give a green light to a certain project in a rural area, the green light is given. When the citizens of the affected area object, the County tells them, ‘we need the money, shut up and take it’. The first expansion of the Cache Creek casino? We need the money, shut up and take it. The second huge expansion of the casino? We need the money, shut up and take it. Now the proposed re entry prison, you guessed it, shut up and take it.

The County Board of Supervisors has a job to do, provide services to the citizens of our county with a 326 million dollar budget. I also understand the fact that free money is a rare and welcome luxury. However, this ‘free’ money does have a cost attached to it. A cost that is not easily seen from the cities of Woodland, Davis, West Sacramento. As rural residents of the county, we are told to shut up and take it as our small-town quality of life deteriorates for the common good of the urban citizenry of the county.

Yes, Yolo County needs this type of facility; anything that could lead to a decrease in the recidivism rates of parolees is a benefit for us all. However, putting this facility out in a rural area, far away from urban centers with few employers, few volunteer organizations and where a tiny percentage of the prisoners families live, is setting up the program for failure before it starts. This a brand new program, there are no other facilities like the proposed re entry prison in the State. No one can tell us how this will affect our local community. After being separated for years from their family member in a far away prison, how many families would try to find low-income housing near the re entry prison? How would that affect our schools, and our crime rates? Any answers you get to these questions is pure speculation.

Here is my question back to the county. If this decision is about the success of the re entry facility, what are the odds of achieving success if you put the facility within three to six miles from thousands of jobs, hundreds of citizens who would volunteer to help these inmates acclimate back into society, where the support of their families is near by and within easy distance of public transit? I would bet those odds are pretty high.

Take the same facility and put it twenty to thirty miles away in a small, rural town and a long way from those same resources. What are the odds of success now?

If success does not figure high on your choice of sites, then you are just shipping your problems to our communities and we are being asked once again to shut up and take it.

Not this time.

1 comment:

無名 - wu ming said...

i tend to agree. the rural location makes no sense except in terms of political expediency. they need to be retooling prisons to be more like this facility, to try and get some handle on the high rates of recidivism, but it really ought to be located in urban areas. west sac would make the most sense to me if it's drawing inmates from the broader capitol region, woodland if it's just yolo county because of the courthouse/jail/etc.

davis would flip if it was even mentioned in passing as a possible location. very strong NIMBYism here. even if it was an ideal location, it'd be DOA.