North Lake Correctional closing down in Baldwin

WEBBER TOWNSHIP — Rumors began flying sooner than layoff notices were handed out.

The rumors, however, turned out to be largely true.

Some 145 employees at the North Lake Correctional Facility in Webber Township, just north of Baldwin in Lake County, have been given their layoff notices and the facility will effectively be shut down as of Oct. 3.

While GEO Group officials and corporate spokespeople failed to return telephone calls, and those working at the facility were unable to comment, the corrections operation is said to be closing as a result of a breach of contract between GEO and the State of California — on the State of California’s part.

On the GEO website it is noted: “On November 4, 2010, GEO entered into a new contract with the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation (CDCR) to provide out-of-state housing for up to 2,580 inmates at the North Lake Correctional Facility. Inmate intake is scheduled to begin in May 2011.”

To date, only an estimated 250 detainees have actually been moved to Michigan and the Lake County jail facility.

“It is my understanding that everyone working at the prison received their layoff notices on Friday, and will be done working - at least for the time being - on Oct. 3,” reported Webber Township supervisor Tony Gagliardo.

“California breached the contract and they haven’t sent prisoners to this institution since early in June anyway.

“There are just over 200 prisoners out there now, and according to GEO officials they will be moved to California or wherever the State of California plans to house them.”

Gagliardo said he estimates that some 145 workers will be without employment when the layoff actually takes place.

“I was told there will be about 17 employees left on staff,” he said. “I assume this is to maintain the facility.

“I was also told the GEO Group were going to continue to “aggressively” seek other options and other contracts to lodge prisoners in the North Lake facility.

“They have, I’ve been told, no plans for completely closing the prison down and walking away from its operation.

“As far as I know, there could be call-backs to work at some point in the future.”

The closing of the prison, even temporarily, could have an effect on the township’s continued smooth running of its infrastructure.

“We could well have more problems with our water and sewer issues,” said a frustrated Gagliardo.

“Still, we’ll deal with things as they come up and try to stay optimistic.”