They are gang dropouts, others who can't live in prison general population

Taft Modified Community Correctional Facility began taking in prison inmates this week and, for the time being, it will be housing inmates who must be separated from the general population for their own safety.

The are designated “SNY” inmates for special needs yard.

They could be gang dropouts who face retaliation from their former gangs for renouncing the gang, men who need to be out of the main population because of their sexual orientation and some low-level sex offenders, Chief of Police Ed Whiting said.

They are not violent sex offenders, Whiting said.

“It would be a guy who was 18 and had sex with a 17-year-old, not a rapist,” Whiting said.

Whiting said the inmates were transferred from Chowchilla.

The inmates are rated for medium security but have been judged suitable for living in a dormitory setting like the Taft MCF.

Before it was closed in 2011, the facility held minimum security level inmates, some of whom were allowed to work outside the facility under supervision.

That won't be happening any more.

Because of the higher security classification, inmates won't be allowed to leave unless personally escorted by a guard.

That means the city – and other public agencies like the West Side recreation and Park District won't be getting the extra help lost in 2011.

“We lost big time when we lost the prisoners,” Whiting said. “We had cleaner alleys and cleaner streets. I don't think we will ever get that back.”

Despite the higher security classification, Taft is not getting problem inmates, the chief said.

“They're very docile. They want a program. They want to work in the kitchen,” he said.

There were 37 inmates on the first bus that arrived at midday Monday.

One inmate scheduled to be moved to Taft was left behind.

A similar number was expected to arrive on Wednesday and two more buses will come in on Friday.

The inmates will arrive in bright pink jumpsuits that make them highly visible in case of escape attempt, Whiting said, but once in the MCCF they will be wearing blue jeans and denim shirts

The prisoners will continue to arrive for the rest of the month until the facility reaches its current capacity of 512.

The city is in the process of expanding the capacity to hold up to 600 inmates in the eight dorms at the MCCF.