In a recent Irvine City Council (ICC) meeting, OC Sheriff’s Department offered the latest on the expansion of the correctional facility James A. Musick. For the uninitiated, that is an Orange County-based correctional center, also called ‘The Farm’.
People who live in Irvine continue to oppose the process of reopening The Farm. The OC Sheriff’s Department uses the jail for many different things, which include immigration detention.
The Farm is among the few jails in the OC system, but it has been shut down since the year 2019. The department now reports that almost 30% of the continuing expansion of two different buildings is over. On completion, the buildings will accommodate over 800 beds, said the OC Sheriff’s Department.
Irvine’s population is no stranger to the city’s Musick jail as they have kept expressing their opposition to this project over the past few years. Now, when the expansion process is almost over, several of the city’s inhabitants ask the council to be involved in the situation to prevent it.
Despite the council opposing the project, Mayor of Irvine Farrah Khan stated that the US city has little influence on that project’s scope because the center is on the county’s land. Further, the mayor said that Orange County’s Board of Supervisors approved the said real estate project.
The issue has been happening for quite a while now, Khan said. Irvine’s mayor added that she knows about the opposition to it, and that Irvine sued Orange County to prevent the approval of the expansion but to no avail. Irvine lost that particular case against Orange County, Khan told Irvine Weekly. She also said that the county’s governing board has the power of decision making.
While she is even welcoming of hosting a future public hearing, Khan knows that its influence would be limited. She believes that unless Irvine can persuade OC’s governing board to support the opinion of the city’s inhabitants, it lacks options in pausing the project further.
Unless somebody from the governing board is ready to be part of the said public hearing, it would not achieve a lot, Khan explained. At the same time, she said that it would be worthy to have some interest from that governing board to participate in the hearing.
The mayor stated that there is still no scheduled hearing about this expansion project. In his recent presentation, OC Sheriff Department’s Jason Park said that center was constructed in the year 1963, and that it was closed two years ago for upgrades.
When it comes to funding, the department will use the money made accessible through Assembly Bill 900 and Senate Bill 1022 to finish the project.
It offers the chance to make the existing housing facilities more contemporary as well as make a more secure center than the earlier one, said Park. The financing came from many different sources after AB 109’s enactment. The other financing source offered $80 million in funding from Senate Bill 1022.
Construction work for the expansion started last summer, and inmates are likely to be able to start occupying the property in the year 2023. When finished, the center will accommodate 896 beds on the whole.
City Attorney for Irvine, namely Jeff Melching, said that the US city has been part of some form of legal talk about the jail’s operation. Once, it could have become one of California’s biggest jail facilities on the basis of the bed count itself, said Melching.
Several times in the past, Irvine tried to impact the decision making of Orange County about the property, explained the attorney. In both 2012 and 2014, after AB 109’s enactment, California issued some funds to enable more local construction of the jail, the attorney said. Interestingly, Irvine actively opposed the approval of the funding, and how the environment-related documents for it was approved.
The attorney kept emphasizing that a lack of regulatory authority made the city’s influential power limited.
Notwithstanding the reality that the US city has limited options at its disposal, Khan is still optimistic about halting the project. She feels that there is still enough time to stop it as well as discuss the possible conversion of the center to make it more meaningful for the community. Then again, she said that the US county’s governing board should make those decisions. At the end of the day, she knows that it would impact the community in many different ways.