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Prison Plan for Camarillo Hospital Denounced

May 25, 1989|MEG SULLIVAN | Times Staff Writer

The Ventura County Board of Supervisors this week denounced a proposal in the Legislature to turn Camarillo State Hospital into the home of a new state prison originally proposed for East Los Angeles.

The board Tuesday unanimously supported Gov. George Deukmejian's announcement to veto the prison construction measure that includes an amendment proposed by Assemblyman Mike Roos (D-Los Angeles) to switch prison sites. Republican legislators oppose the amendment.

"This isn't a case of doing a lot of research and finding the best site," said Supervisor Maggie Erickson, who represents the Camarillo area. "This is the result of some partisan game-playing, and we don't think this is any way to site a facility."

Roos' measure would turn the psychiatric hospital into a 1,450-bed, maximum-security facility with an additional 500-bed institution for the criminally insane and a ward for prisoners with AIDS.

Under the proposal, which last week passed the Assembly's Ways and Means Committee, the $148-million prison would be built in predominantly Republican Camarillo instead of predominantly Democratic Boyle Heights.

Site Criticized

Roos proposed the switch because a state panel set up to study the East Los Angeles site criticized it, said Lynn Montgomery, an aide to Roos.

Roos recommended the Camarillo site because studies have indicated that the state has too many psychiatric hospital beds, Montgomery said, and officials have considered closing the Camarillo hospital in the past. She also cited the advantages of the hospital's rural location.

"There are schools butting up against where they were planning to do the East L.A. prison," she said.

However, officials at Camarillo State Hospital took exception, saying the hospital is operating at full capacity. "The need is there in the population we serve," said Myron Dimmett, the hospital's assistant executive director. "We have waiting lists for our programs. If there are more beds than we need, there shouldn't be waiting lists."

Assemblyman Tom McClintock (R-Thousand Oaks), whose district includes Camarillo, said the amendment was designed as retaliation for an April 4 spat between him and Roos at a legislative committee hearing. McClintock accused Roos and other Democrats of refusing to build enough prisons, and Roos countered by supporting a suggestion that one be built in Thousand Oaks.

"Absolutely!" Roos said, according to a transcript of the meeting. "And watch him scream like a pig!"

Montgomery denied that Roos' action had any relationship to the April fracas. "Tom McClintock takes a lot of things personally," she said.

'Yell and Scream'

"There are so many Republican members who yell and scream about the need for this," she added. "It seems like if you're willing to accept the idea of more prisons, you should accept the prisons as well."

McClintock said the supervisors' letter to Deukmejian was "much appreciated."

"I think they saw just what a contemptible and petty game it is," he said.

McClintock predicted that the proposal would undermine a bipartisan agreement for prison construction in the Los Angeles area.

That agreement hinges on another prison being built in Lancaster, which is predominantly Republican. The new proposal would put both prisons in predominantly Republican districts, upsetting the balance struck by 1987 legislation calling for the East Los Angeles prison.

Deukmejian, a Republican, has vowed to veto the measure if it passes the Assembly, which is expected to consider it in several weeks, said Kevin Brett, his press secretary. The state Department of Corrections opposes the proposal.

County supervisors see the issue as one of fairness.

"Last year, 14,409 felons from Los Angeles County went to state prison," Supervisor Madge L. Schaefer said. "Only 314 come from Ventura. There's a significant difference between what we're generating and what we're being asked to house."

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