A $300 Million Dollar Jail in Whitewater's Backyard has the 200+ Residents in an uproar. We didn't know about this proposed Jail until the latter part of September. An emergency meeting was called for residents to try to get some of their questions answered, but actually there are more questions than answers. Apparently the County was going to do a "Presentation" to the Residents, but the jail plan was found out before this official "presentation" was given.
"It's right in the middle of the county," Marion Ashley said of the site of the proposed jail in White Water. "It's just an ideal spot because if we didn't choose it, we would have to build a new jail in the western portion of the county and a new one in the eastern portion." That was his response, and what has many Residents writing letters, signing petitions, and driving to the Tuesday Supervisors meetings in Riverside.
Currently Banning has a Jail, The Larry D. Smith Correctional Facilityy (the old Banning Road Camp)., and the County has approved around 600 additional beds to that facility. Banning is just down the road from Whitewater, about 15 minutes west. So all of the 6,000+ beds that are needed in the County will be within 15 minutes of each other. Our Backyard....Whitewater.
Several Whitewater Residents have gone to the weekly Supervisors Meeting in Riverside to voice their concerns. Although all the Supervisors agree that our area is perfect for their jail, they didn't notify current Residents. When asked about why no one was notified the answer was: Whitewater is an unincorporated area, and they don't have to notify anyone unless they live within 500 feet of the proposed jail project. Bottom line Whitewater "jail" already had Architectural Drawings, an EIR (Environmental Impace Report) either completed or in process, and before any Residents even knew about the plans for a jail, the process of approval appeared to be well on its way.
The proposed Whitewater jail site is an appx. 140 acre county owned site right on the main Street, Tamarack, the only ingress and egress for Residents of Friendly Estates.
These Residents and all the School Children would have to pass this jail several times a day. The Residents of this section of Whitewater only have one way in, and one way out....and that is from the Haugen-Lehmann exit off the I-10 Freeway, or the frontage road that runs on the south side of the Freeway.
The jail traffic, resident traffic, school transportation, and construction traffic would be using that one intersection Haugen Lehmann and Tamarack. There are no sidewalks for the kids or pedestrians, and hopefully the County will pay for some of the local neglected infrastructure to help mitigate the effects of this jail on the residents of Whitewater.
We hope that the traffic portion of the EIR (Environmental Impact Report) is seriously looked at, and if the county is dead set on putting their jail in our backyard, let's find some ways to help mitigate the effects of this.
A few of the concerns from residents that have written letters are (in no particular order):
- The Lights from a 24/7 Facility of this size will ruin the Desert Sky Viewing-it's beautiful out here for stargazing, and many of the Nocturnal Desert Animals and fowl would be adversely affected.
- Ingress and Egress- Tamarack is the only way in or out of Whitewater for the families that live off Rushmore. There are 2 distinct areas that would be the most affected by building this jail. Residents wanted to know why the County can't build a new exit off the Freeway at Rushmore. In the past there have been people that tore down the fence to the Morongo Indian Reservation to try to get out in an emergency.
- Property Values- People are concerned that their property will decrease in value even more than it has right now, in this economy.
- Why Doesn't the County build their jail in Eagle Mountain- there are already 1500 homes and a school that are abandoned. Eagle Mountain is about 12 miles N. of Desert Center.
- When did the County buy the additional 100 acres - Apparently the County owned 37 acres (not verified) and assembled more land for this jail that supposidly isn't approved?
- Concern over Water Shortage, Sewage, and Fire- Cabazon just built a new Fire Station but that is still a distance away, and this is a desert....we have to conserve water.
- Why didn't Home Purchasers get any type of Disclosure about this plan from Real Estate Agents- We couldn't disclose what we didn't know, and what was never verified. The Rumors I heard was the jail was to be built in Cabazon.
- Dumping Criminals in our Backyard- The Banning Jail has been releasing inmates in the community, and Whitewater Residents are afraid that this new "Hub Jail" will do the same thing. The difference is this Jail is supposed to have a reported 7,000 beds at build-out, which means more releases, not counting anyone that might escape.
- A large jail in White Water would affect the Gateway to the Desert- who wants to see a large jail right off the 10 freeway going to Palm Springs, Palm Desert, and the other communities of the Coachella Valley.
- Safety for Children at Bus Stops- children are going to school, and standing at bus stops in the dark ( in the Winter) with no lights, benches, or shelter and unknown people coming in and out of the community.
A Jail in Whitewater........if you ask the residents they will say "Not in my Backyard!"