The private company that runs Taft Correctional Institution, a minimum security federal prison, announced the federal government will shut down the prison as of Jan. 31, 2020.
The prison has 342 employees and can hold 2,500 male inmates.
"Management & Training Corporation was shocked to receive the news as this decision will have a devastating impact on hundreds of families, the local economy and the community," Issa Arnita, MTC director of corporate communications, wrote in a news release Tuesday. MTC operates the facility for the federal Bureau of Prisons.
Taft Mayor Dave Noerr described it as "a nightmare" for the 60 to 70 employees of the facility who live in Taft and a financial hit for the city of 10,000 that sits in southwestern Kern County and is mostly known as an oil town. Noerr said he had previous plans to see Congressman Kevin McCarthy Tuesday night and that he would bring up the issue with him.
Assemblyman Vince Fong, R-Bakersfield, who represents Taft at the state level, said he, too, wants to know more about the closure.
“I am working with our federal counterparts to get all the information behind this decision. This is an important facility to Taft and west Kern County,” Fong said in a statement.
MTC said in its news release the Bureau of Prisons determined $100 million was needed in upgrades to the facility, which forced the closure. However, MTC feels alternatives to closing the facility are available and wants the federal government to reverse its decision.
Noerr said news of the closure came as a complete surprise and avoiding closure is an idea worth exploring.
"Would I advocate to explore alternatives in order to save those jobs? Absolutely," he said.
MTC estimates the prison contributes $4.6 million to the local economy.
Citing the prison as an economic driver for the region, state Sen. Shannon Grove, R-Bakersfield, whose district covers Taft, said in a statement, "...our region will need to come together to offer solutions that will minimize the impact of the facility’s closure on the community."