Congressman says facility can be kept open while repairs are made

Taft Mayor Dave Noerr said the Taft Correctional Institution is much too valuable to close. Congressman Kevin McCarthy said there is no reason to close it, despite a report from the Federal Bureau of Prisons report that recommended closing the low-security prison because some buildings have settlement issues.

The BOP cited that damage and a price tag of $100 million to repair it, as the reason it was going to be closed at the end of January 2020
McCarthy and Noerr toured TCI Wednesday morning then met for about 15 minutes with reporters.

Both said they were impressed with the facility and the people and said it’s running just fine even with buildings off-limits.

"This facility doesn't need to be closed," McCarthy said. "The places that need help, you could actually fix those while the people are still here. "[With] a little common sense, we can maintain this facility. This facility makes us safer. This facility is probably one of the best-run facilities, one of the cleanest facilities since it’s been built."

The prison visit came about a week after the BOP agreed to conduct a study on the feasibility of keeping the prison open and a halt to prison transfers.

Those transfers have halted after 160 inmates were transferred from TCI's main facility, a low-security prison. 

In addition, plans to layoff TCI employees have been cancelled -- for now at least.

"Layoff notices were rescinded yesterday," Warden Mike Merlak said.

More than 340 employees, including many who live in taft, received notice that the could lose their jobs starting in late November.

Noerr said the TCI employees who live in Taft are important.

"You're talking about a quality employer with wages that can raise a family," the Mayor said. "We are looking at ways to diversify our economy. Those 75 jobs are important to that."