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Governor's plan would expand Pelican Bay

By Nicholas Grube

Triplicate staff writer

Pelican Bay State Prison may see some growth during the next couple years if Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger is able to persuade lawmakers and voters to back proposals made in his State of the State address and recently released 2007-2008 budget.

"Local jails and state prisons are so overcrowded that criminals are being let out or left on the street because we have no room to lock them up," said Schwarzenegger in Tuesday's address.

To combat this overcrowding, the governor proposed using $10.9 billion dollars to increase prison and jail capacity. About $4.4 billion of this money would be used strictly on state prisons, such as Pelican Bay, and would fund an additional 16,238 new beds.

But Rick Newton, president of the Pelican Bay Chapter of the California Correctional Peace Officers Association, said he thinks this proposal comes a little late.

"The growth the governor is talking about, should've been going on all along," he said, referring to the continual increase of inmates. "My opinion, presently, is that this reform (the governor is proposing) is better late than never."

Plans already are underway to expand the Pelican Bay State Prison, Newon said, and he believes there will be an increase in jobs at the facility, which employs about 1,400 staff members.

State Assemblywoman Patty Berg, D-Eureka, said she will examine Schwarzenegger's reform proposal and follow his budget through legislature.

"I am concerned about the cost of this proposal in the context of the broader budget," she said, "and how that will affect our bond debt."

State Sen. Sam Aanestad, R-Grass Valley, is concerned as well.

"If a prison is going to be expanded," he said. "Any pressure put on the community surrounding it needs to be mitigated."

This includes accounting for costs of road repair and expansion due to the increased traffic that an expanded prison might cause, he said.

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