CHINO - A meeting on Wednesday to discuss the proposed expansion at California Institution for Men drew people from around Southern California, most opposing the plan.

"We need to take a look at our incarceration policy ... that keeps putting the poor and people of color in prison," Mary Sutton of Los Angeles said during the public address portion of the meeting.

Sutton and about a dozen others are part of the organization California United for a Responsible Budget, or CURB.

California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation officials held the meeting, a requirement of the California Environmental Quality Act, at the community center at Chaffey College's campus in Chino.

Under Senate Bill 1022 passed last summer, the state has the authorization to build new Level II facilities to accommodate 2,300 new beds. Level II inmates are considered low risk.

The state also wants to shutter the prison in Norco, which has fallen into disrepair.

Five locations are being considered, including one on CIM property, officials said. However, corrections officials told those in attendance Wednesday afternoon that the two locations seeming to make the most sense are at R.J. Donovan Prison in San Diego and Mule Creek State Prison in Ione, south of Sacramento.

According to the terms of S.B. 1022, the facilities have to be rehabilitative and, according to Robert Sleppy of the corrections department's Office of Facility Planning, have a population cap.


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"There won't be any doubling of the population here," he said.

Most who spoke out during the comment portion of the meeting were concerned that not enough was being done by the corrections agency to invest in rehabilitation.

"Invest money in our youth, not prisons," said Ceci Mendoza of CURB.

The new facilities, which will probably be a single 792-bed facility and a double-sized 1,500-bed facility, will have employment assistance, mental health classes and medical care.

"In the past, the facilities weren't built with this component in mind," Sleppy said. "We had to search for space. This one from the get-go will have that space."

Ron Copeland, a pastor who ministers at jails and prisons, said if the plan goes forward to expand at CIM, he and his group will be there to help.

"We need a true place for rehabilitation, not just incarceration," he said.

Eastvale Mayor Ike Bootsma, whose city borders Chino on the east, felt expanding the prison would be a mistake.

"The existing prison had already taken a toll on (Chino's) services," said Bootsma, adding that paramedics and firefighters respond to emergencies at the prison, pulling them from emergencies in Chino.

However, one of the issues that might make expansion at CIM less than desirable are the current conditions at the Chino site.

"The infrastructure is horrible, and it will save the state a lot of money to find another location," said former CIM warden Aref Fakhoury of Rancho Cucamonga.

Fakhoury, who retired last year, said corrections staff had been dealing with housing inmates in a prison that is one of the oldest in the state.

"There's contamination, the pipes are not in good shape and the electricity would go out," he said. "It would make more sense to do this at another location."


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