A company that planned to open a halfway house for federal prisoners in Wilmington has been forced to put the project on hold--perhaps permanently--because federal officials have decided to seek new bids for the job, a company official said this week.
Barry Rubin, regional vice president of Behavioral Systems Southwest, said the Bureau of Prisons notified him last week that it was canceling the company's contract to open a halfway house for prisoners from the Long Beach and South Bay areas. Prison officials ruled that a building the firm planned to use did not meet federal standards, leading them to reopen the contract to new bids, Rubin said.
The company has not decided if it will submit a new proposal, he said.
A federal prison official in Washington said only that the bureau is "in discussions" with Behavioral Systems Southwest about the contract. They have said in the past that the halfway house could be located anywhere in the South Bay or Long Beach. Federal prisoners from these areas now use a halfway house in downtown Long Beach, the Beach Haven Lodge.
An aide to Rep. Glenn M. Anderson (D-Harbor City), who has opposed the proposed Wilmington facility, said prison officials told him this week that they have decided to re-evaluate the contract. "I have reason to believe the thing is going to be resolved to the community's satisfaction," said Jeremiah Bresnahan, administrative assistant to Anderson.
In a letter last week to Norman A. Carlson, director of the prison bureau, Anderson joined Assemblyman Dave Elder (D-Long Beach) and Los Angeles Councilwoman Joan Milke Flores, all of whom represent Wilmington, in requesting that the bureau not put a halfway house in the community.
Bresnahan said federal officials then assured the congressman that the bureau "has no desire to put probationers in an inhospitable community."
The halfway house, one of 315 operated nationwide for the Federal Bureau of Prisons, is designed as a transitional home for inmates nearing the end of their terms. They work in the community during the day and return to the house each evening, staying there under supervision.
Community leaders have collected more than 3,000 signatures on petitions opposing the proposed Wilmington facility, which would house 25 to 35 federal prisoners who have fewer than 180 days left on their prison sentences. Irma Castillo, president of the parents group at Wilmington Park Elementary School, which is half a mile from the proposed site, said 735 parents of children at the school signed the petition.
"Our community is going to be concerned until we know for sure that it isn't coming here," Castillo said, adding that the petition drive will continue even though plans for the facility have stalled. "Everybody needs a place to be, and I hope they find a new place. It is not that we are selfish, but we have enough problems here already."
Behavioral Systems Southwest in April was awarded the contract to run the halfway house and proposed using a building at 1203 E. Anaheim St. But, according to Rubin, prison officials determined that the vacant wooden structure needed too much work to meet federal requirements.
Although Behavioral Systems Southwest offered to raze the building and construct a new one, Rubin said, prison officials decided the contract should be submitted for new bids because the company had changed its proposal.
"This puts back the time frame a good deal," Rubin said. "That is unfortunate, but I understand the government position. . . . It would take additional time to build the thing from scratch, so they thought that in all fairness" they should accept other bids.