I’ve noted that my earlier blog about the Musick Jail settlement that was reached in February 2000 and the subsequent rescission has sparked some controversy.
For our City Council, voting for or against a jail has never been on the table. The facility opened in 1963, eight years before the City was incorporated. What was negotiated and voted on was a way to protect our residents from a huge increase in the number and security classification of the inmates being held in the jail, proposed by the County.
The February 2000 settlement agreement put a dependent and phased cap on the inmate population. That agreement would have kept the cap at the then current level, 1,256, until the County met certain criteria. The maximum build-out inmate total was 3200 less inmates, than the County proposal, and no maximum security prisoners. The County would be required to look for a new, remote jail site, complete and certify an EIR for that remote site, and evaluate the closing of Musick Jail. The critics of that agreement praise Councilmember Agran, Krom and Mears, who voted to rescind the stipulation.
Well, let’s look at what their vote did. It exposed the City to the County’s original plan of 7,584, including maximum security inmates. What was their plan to stop that? Well, they decided to sue the County again. And guess what. At every step, the City has lost.
Fortunately, the City of Lake Forest entered into an MOU with the County in 2012. Their MOU provides some shelter for Irvine, but not nearly the amount provided by the Feb. 2000 settlement.
The Lake Forest MOU has a listed inmate cap of 3,100, but that cap can be set aside, for among other reasons, the Sheriff merely demonstrating that there is a need for expansion. And once again, the inmate cap can go back to the 7,584 level.
That wasn’t true of the February 2000 cap.
The only plan that Councilmembers Agran and Krom had for the last 13 years to address the Jail situation is lawsuit after lawsuit. The result has only been loss after loss, and at a huge financial cost to the City.
At every recent Council meeting Councilmember Agran has brought up the potential of 7500 maximum security inmates near a site being considered by IUSD for a new high school. He doesn’t tell us that by rescinding the February 2000 agreement, he and his colleagues allowed that situation to develop, creating a potential 7600 maximum security jail on our borders.
Yes, I voted for the February 2000 settlement agreement. But, not to build a jail, and unlike some of my colleagues, I wasn’t willing to gamble with the safety and security of our community for political reasons.