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Norco Prison Prepares for Increase in Inmates : Officials Say Population Could Rise by 900, Plan Conversion of Classrooms to Dormitories

December 13, 1985|BARRY S. SURMAN | Times Staff Writer

NORCO — The California Rehabilitation Center, already almost 50% over capacity, could face a population increase of more than 900 inmates next year, prison officials said Thursday.

To prepare for the projected influx, officials at the medium-security state prison have begun plans to convert classrooms to dormitories, said acting Supt. Leonard Chastain.

"By squeezing in and modifying existing buildings, we can accommodate them," Chastain said.

Classes will double up in remaining classrooms until new prefabricated buildings are placed on the prison grounds, said Lt. George Morgan, public information officer for the prison.

If overcrowding is severe, Morgan said, some classes may be suspended temporarily.

The prison's population Thursday was 3,060 men and 697 women, Morgan said.

Still, it is one of the state's least-crowded prisons, said Jack Corrie, information officer for the Corrections Department in Sacramento. The Norco prison's male population is 149% of capacity and its female population 137% of capacity, he said.

The state's only other women's prison is at 206% of its capacity, Corrie said. Men's prisons range from 96% of capacity at a new prison to more than 200% of capacity in sections of the prisons at Soledad and Chino.

Morgan said the increase in the men's population at Norco "could be as high as 900," based on the Corrections Department's overall population growth rate. "CRC is going to have to take more inmates," he said. "We're part of the system."

The projected population increase for next year, however, is at least 200 men and 61 women.

Chastain said the Norco prison has "the space . . . If we get the staff, if we get the funding to accommodate the additional people, I am confident we can handle it. . . ."

The biggest problem, he said, is the added burden to other prison operations, such as sewage treatment, laundry and dining facilities.

Since February, the population of California's 12 prisons has been increasing by an average of 144 prisoners per week, Corrie said. The prisons' total population currently stands at 49,708.

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