Musick Madness - Part 1 (From Farm to Maximum Security)

A Maximum Security prison is coming to Lake Forest and no one is trying to stop it.

Previously we talked about crime per se, but there is another threat to public safety in Lake Forest that is even more troubling. In March 2012 the OC Sheriff announced that $100,000,000 had been secured for the expansion of the Musick Jail and the addition of more than 500 beds. Assistant Sheriff Mike James described the new facility as a “maximum security jail”. Only Irvine was vocal in its opposition. The City of Lake Forest was curiously silent.

500+ maximum security beds coming to a jail in Lake Forest?

Let’s take a step back to see what’s going on.

“The Farm”

Musick Jail sits on 100 county acres between the cities of Irvine and Lake Forest. You can see Musick Jail from Bake Parkway at the intersection of Bake and So. Pointe Drive near Trabuco.

For many years Musick was a quiet little facility affectionately referred to as “the farm”. It held less than 1,000 minimum security prisoners serving time for offenses like DUI, minor drug possession, and prostitution.

The Sheriff

In case you didn’t know it, Lake Forest doesn’t have its own police force, as do many larger cities. Instead we contract with the County to use members of the OC Sheriff’s Department (OCSD). They are assigned to us and we have our own Chief, who is also a member of OCSD. In addition to being in charge of the officers, the Sheriff is also in control of the jails.

Beds for Feds

About two years ago the new OC Sheriff announced a “beds for feds” program. She brought to our City illegal aliens who were convicted criminals who served their sentences and were waiting to be deported from the U.S. These criminals were under the authority of Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), but held by the Sheriff. Although the Sheriff claimed they  would be “no worse” than the felons who were currently at Musick, announcements from ICE said: “ICE is focusing efforts first and foremost on the most dangerous criminal aliens currently charged with, or previously convicted of, the most serious criminal offenses. ICE will give priority to those offenses including, crimes involving national security, homicide, kidnapping, assault, robbery, sex offenses, and narcotics violations carrying sentences of more than one year.” (ICE Secure Communities Fact Sheet)

The first phase of the program called for 366 beds and the second phase calls for 720 beds. According to ICE, the average time to process detainees is approximately every 30 days. That means each bed will be occupied by 12 criminals per year. So 366 beds x 12 criminals per year occupying each bed = 4,392 criminals coming into and out of Musick each year in Phase 1, and 720 x 12 = 8,640 per year in Phase 2.

According to the Sheriff`s Department, the average length of stay for prisoners in the Jail system (they don`t have separate info for Musick) indicates that each bed is occupied approximately twice per year. That means that with less than 1,000 inmates, Musick serves about 2,000 inmates this year. BUT with the new ICE program, that number will rise to 6,000 +. The bottom line - the ICE program will increase the number of inmates at Musick during a year by 3 fold.

Change in Convicts

As if the addition of dangerous illegal alien felons was not enough, in December 2011 the Sheriff announced that a new plan for Musick will change Musick from a minimum to a medium security facility.

(BTW - the Sheriff makes a point of stressing that Musick`s current prisoners are "minimum security" and that the ICE prisoners are also minimum security. What she doesn`t tell you is that minimum security is not a designation that predicts a person`s level of dangerousness to the community, but merely describes whether or not the staff believe the prisoner will be a problem while in jail. IOW, a minimum security prisoner may nonetheless pose a substantial risk to the community if he or she escapes. So while it`s comforting to the staff at Musick to be dealing with minimum security prisoners, there is absolutely no assurance that if one of these prisoners escapes, he/she may not commit violent crimes as soon as they get out!)

A story in the OC Register in September 2012 said -

“Orange County jails are becoming increasingly dangerous as they fill with inmates who are more violent, more seasoned and staying longer….”

“Now, deputies in Musick have found inmates organizing in the minimum-security jail, Garcia said. They are attempting to assert their dominance and tax other inmates. When they are discovered, they are transferred to one of the other jails."

"You now have a more sophisticated type of inmate… Our deputies have had to be more proactive. It's not as laid back as it used to be."

The Max

On top of this, the newest program calls for a 500 bed maximum security prison. So whatever concerns we had about the mis-labeling of “minimum security” can be thrown away now that we are dealing with maximum security felons.

Bottom Line

A few years ago Lake Forest had a small, truly minimum security facility that was affectionately called “the farm” and that housed relatively harmless people who were serving time for minor offenses. This has changed and is in the process of changing again, raising significantly the numbers of criminals, raising significantly their threat level, and raising significantly the classification of the jail. All of this is happening within a few hundred yards of residential housing, and the City is not merely doing nothing about it, they are endorsing it. We'll talk about this in Part 2.

This post is contributed by a community member. The views expressed in this blog are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of Patch Media Corporation. Everyone is welcome to submit a post to Patch. If you'd like to post a blog, go here to get started.

Homer October 29, 2012 at 06:03 AM
Lands "gifted," from one agency to another, are often a way of saying: the land is unsuitable for our plan and we will offer it as "open space" to offset land which is suitable for building upon. Much of the land around the former base, which was designated as "open space," was left open for a reason - primarily environmental concerns.
Jim Gardner October 29, 2012 at 03:09 PM
Hi Andromeda If you go to me website, GardnerForCouncil.com you will find financial details as well as more background. In 2010 the Sheriff was faced with reducing the size of her force as a result of declining prisoners in our County system. Had she been a business person she would have downsized, but she didn't want to do that, so she accepted the "beds for feds" program which let her keep her force in tact. Had she known then that the State prison system was going to collapse and we were going to inherit State prisoners, the decision might have been different (Of course, it was pretty obvious in 2010 that this was going to happen and the State was already being threatened with the action that the feds ultimately took). As far as I knew in 2010, the "beds for feds" program was penciled out to cover its own costs, including the salaries of the OCSD personnel. What actually happens I'm unaware. My criticism of the situation, then and now, was from the POV of a person living in Lake Forest. There were no steps taken to securitize our city nor to give us any concessions as a result of the extra risks we now incur. Frankly I'm not sure there was anything that could have been offered that would have changed my opinion, but nothing was offered and the Sheriff simply did what she wanted to do and the heck with us. That's when our City Council needed to step in and protect us. The Sheriff was taking care of her own, but nobody was taking care of us.
Andromeda October 29, 2012 at 04:01 PM
Thank you, Mr. Gardner. It's so refreshing to have a Council candidate with the interests and safety of the Lake Forest citizens in mind. I don't believe that any of the other candidates have pointed out these facts about Musick like you have here. In fact, from what I've read most want more police powers in Lake Forest, not less. So I am going to assume that most of them favor the Musick expansion to the detriment of the Lake Forest citizens. I know that you are fighting an uphill battle against the big money that you are running against in the Council race. But if there's one person we need on the Council it's you. You deliver the facts and the transparency that is vital to any sound municipal operation. We sure hope you win.
Andromeda October 30, 2012 at 03:41 PM
I assume that you are aware that the Feds pay much more per inmate than the state pays under AB 109. And if Proposition 30 fails (which is a distinct possibility) the State will really find itself between a rock and a hard place when it comes to financing payments for AB 109. Chances are it will pay even less to the counties for the transferred inmates. Why do you think Hutchens was actively involved in asking the Governor to veto AB 1081 (which would have made it illegal to transfer illegal detainees to the Feds for deportation unless they committed violent felonies) and turned California into an official sanctuary state? He did veto it, btw. Do you think it was because she's a clone of Sheriff Joe Arpaio? Hardly. Hutchen's enforcement policies against illegal immigrants has been lax, at best. This is well known. Especially within the rank 'n file. She was against AB 1081 because it would have severly reduced the illegal detainee population under "Beds for Feds" and cut into her revenue. It's a revenue operation. It's all about the money. It has to be. Those multi-million dollar pensions at age 50-55 have to get paid somehow.
Homer November 20, 2012 at 08:44 PM
http://www.ocregister.com/news/jail-378237-expansion-dostal.html Agreement details •Limit inmate population to 3,100 •Limit type of inmate to Levels 1 and 2 •Set maximum building height at 50 feet •Limit access from Bake Parkway (on future access route) to emergencies •Monitor inmates via cameras, other surveillance measures •House majority of inmates in dormitory-style rooms


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