Congressman Kevin McCarthy toured the Taft Correctional Institute Wednesday with Taft Mayor Dave Noerr and said afterward he sees no reason the federal government should follow through on plans to shutter it.
“These are areas that are recreational, that are already walled off," he said of the portions of the facility that need repair and were cited by the federal government as a reason to close it. "...this facility doesn’t need to be closed — the places that need help — you could actually fix those while people are still here."
When news of the planned closure broke in October, Taft city officials and government leaders throughout the area were shocked and concerned about the economic impact of closing the prison.
The reason the U.S. Department of Justice gave for the closure was that the facility required repairs exceeding $100 million.
McCarthy called on DOJ to reconsider the closure last month and DOJ responded last week saying it would take a closer look at whether the needed repairs could be made while the facility remains open.
"You're talking about a quality employer with wages that can raise a family," Noerr said. "We are looking at ways to diversify our economy. Those 75 jobs are important to that."
Plans to transfer inmates have halted after 160 inmates were transferred and layoffs of TCI employees have been cancelled for now.
"Layoff notices were rescinded yesterday," Warden Mike Merlak said.
DOJ plans to make the determination by the end of the year.
Doug Keeler of the Taft Midway Driller contributed to this report.