One of the biggest topics of discussion in the city of Chowchilla this year was whether or not one of its prisons for women will be converted over to house male inmates.
Now, the Chowchilla’s Valley State Prison for women will be the facility that undergoes the overhaul.
It was announced by Department of Corrections spokeswoman Dana Toyama on Friday that the women’s prison will make its switch and convert over to a men’s prison starting in July of 2013. The most-pressing issue being faced was alleviating the overcrowding at male prison facilities, according to Toyama.
“The men’s prison will hold low to medium-security adult inmates and reduce male inmate overcrowding, while avoiding staff layoffs at the institution,” Toyama said.
As of now, Valley State Prison holds 3,171 female inmates. According to state officials, the number of male inmates and staff members is expected to be roughly the same number, once the conversion to the female to male prison is complete.
Overcrowding at male prisons has been a forefront issue for both Madera and Fresno County. In fact, back on July 8, 2011, Madera County correctional officials started a jail expansion project, where extra beds would be rented out to help house incarcerated males. Around 144 beds were rented out in the $30 million project. This move was made to help prevent the need to release inmates from jail early, which has been a problem in Fresno County due to the increase in crime among recently released male prisoners.
Chowchilla city officials however, in particular Mayor David Alexander, opposed the idea of converting one of the female institutions to a male one over the summer, even saying “We don’t want a male prison.” There was also the issue of whether or not one female prison would close its doors, along with the possibility of current prison employees being relocated, retrained or losing their jobs if transition was to take place.
Correctional officials have said though that after consideration and evaluation, the Valley State Prison for women was selected for conversion and not closure.
As for the remaining female inmates being housed at the Valley State Prison, Toyama says that those inmates will either go to Central California’s Women’s Facility in Chowchilla, or be transported to California Institution for Women down in Corona, Ca.