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Camarillo Council to Look at Opposing Prison Hospital Plan

July 22, 2008

By Carolyn Quinn, Ventura County Star, Calif.

Jul. 22–The Camarillo City Council on Wednesday will consider authorizing a statement of opposition to a proposed prison hospital just beyond city boundaries and hiring a consultant to investigate environmental issues related to the facility.

A plan by federal receiver J. Clark Kelso has marked the Ventura Youth Correctional Facility, 3100 Wright Road, for replacement with a 1,500-bed hospital for adult inmates with chronic physical and mental health problems.

Kelso is charged with carrying out a federal order to bring California’s prison healthcare system up to constitutional standards. A federal court determined that the quality of care given to inmates is so poor, it causes unnecessary suffering and deaths.

The proposed Ventura County facility may be constructed in 2009 as the third in a series of seven planned hospitals around the state.

Camarillo City Manager Jerry Bankston told the council in June that city officials did not have the opportunity to participate in Kelso’s decision and were looking into possible avenues of litigation to halt the project. City Attorney Brian Pierik said Monday that he could not comment on what was being considered on that front.

Members of the Prison Hospital Action Committee, a group composed of area residents who oppose the proposed facility, have said they plan to use a lawsuit to slow down and possibly stop the construction.

At a committee meeting two weeks ago, Daryl Lee, president of the Ventura County chapter of the California Correctional Peace Officers Association and a 23-year employee at the juvenile facility, said the union was also considering litigation.

The text of the city’s proposed statement of opposition was not available Monday. A copy of the proposed contract with the consulting firm shows that the city is considering paying Ventura-based Rincon Consultants Inc. up to $50,000 to review and comment on the prison hospital’s environmental impact report and investigate the hospital’s compliance with the California Environmental Quality Act.

The city has worked with Rincon in the past, Pierik said.

Kelso has not filed a CEQA notice in Ventura County, although he has at two other proposed prison hospital sites — one in Stockton and the other in San Diego.

The council is scheduled to meet at 5 p.m. at City Hall.

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Copyright (c) 2008, Ventura County Star, Calif.

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