Congressman says BOP has "refused to provide full accounting" for closing federal prison

Congressman Kevin McCarthy (R-Bakersfield) wants the Federal Bureau of Prisons to halt planning for the removal of inmates from the Taft Correctional Facility leading up to its planned closure in January 2020 and tell him why the low-security prison is closing.

In a letter to the BOP last week, McCarthy asked Attorney General William Barr and Dr. Kathleen Hawk Sawyer, director of the federal bureau of prisons for "an immediate suspension of any activities related to the deactivation of the Taft Correctional Institution."

The BOP made a surprise announcement on Oct. 1 that TCI, which houses criminal aliens in a low-security facility with other inmates in a minimum security, would close by Jan. 31.
The announcement caught everyone off guard.

"No advance notice of the closure was provided to me, and the Bureau has so far refused to share detailed information regarding this decision and supporting materials, other than limited information included in the original deactivation notification," McCarthy said in a press release.

Efforts to get more information have been fruitless.

"...After meetings, conference calls, and onsite visits by my staff over the past three days, BOP regional staff and BOP staff onsite at the TCI do not have detailed information as to why the BOP made this determination, and the BOP headquarters staff has so far refused to provide me a full accounting of the justification for this decision and supporting materials," McCarthy said.

McCarthy made three specific requests:

• Immediately suspend any actions related to deactivation of the TCI.

• Provide a thorough briefing on the BOP's decision to deactivate the TCI and the plan to rehabilitate any impacted structures at this prison.

• Work with the current prison operator to determine if there are any structures that pose a direct and imminent threat to corrections staff and inmates.

Management Training Corporation, which has been operating TCI under a contract with the BOP, said it was told that the $100-million price tag to repair structural damage to buildings at the facility on Cadet Road was more than the BOP could afford.
Two buildings have been affected, TCI Associate Warden Georgia Puentes said, and programs have already been moved to other buildings, and the prison has continued normal operations.

McCarthy said that is the assessment he's been given.

"It is my understanding from the constituents onsite and the limited information provided by the BOP, only auxiliary buildings may be impacted by structural issues, which can be repaired or closed, and programs can be relocated to other facilities at the TCI without adversely impacting the prison's operations or safety of staff and inmates," he said. "Furthermore, constituents onsite inform me that inmate housing structures, medical wards, and the cafeteria are not impacted by structural issues."

The closure will affect about 340 prison employees, many of whom live in Taft.