Buck Johns

‘Buck’ Johns pitching private facility to ease woes in LA County

May 31, 2014 7:09 PM
SHEA JOHNSON, STAFF WRITER

ADELANTO • City Manager Jim Hart said this week Adelanto would allow a new private correctional facility on its turf in a potential deal being marketed right now to Los Angeles County by a familiar and controversial figure.

The proposed 3,280-bed jail would cost $332 million and would be paid for by bonds issued by a public finance authority or other agency. It would sit on 160 acres at Adelanto’s eastern boundary, next to the existing federal correctional facilities there. It would take roughly two years to complete.

Beds would be leased for $104 million per year over 20 years to L.A. County, which is dealing with an inmate overcrowding problem and a looming years-long rebuild of its downtown Central Jail.

For its part, Hart says Adelanto would receive along the lines of 75 cents per bed each day and “what we’d get beyond that would have to be negotiated.”

According to Hart, the city is not fronting any money in the venture and would only come into play should a deal be closed.

“They need us, because the only way it would work is a contract between governmental agencies,” he said.

In “they,” Hart is referring to Nashville-based Doctor R. Crants, co-founder of Corrections Corp. of America, and Inland Energy President William “Buck” Johns. They are pitching the plan to the L.A. County Board of Supervisors.

Johns’ Inland Energy has a past in Victorville as a developer or consultant for major would-be projects that either stalled or failed, including the Foxborough power project, Victorville 2 power plant and the EB-5 Visa Program.

Johns could not be reached for comment this week.

“Yes, I’m familiar with that,” Hart said, regarding the past Victorville projects. “The reason it doesn’t concern me (is) we’re not being asked to front any money on this. It’s Buck’s and Crants’ money that gets lost (if the proposal fails).”

But if the private jail ultimately succeeds — along with a similarly-sized state correctional facility project also currently in its infancy stages — then Adelanto would remarkably boast four jails within its city limits. The High Desert Detention Center and a federal complex are also there.

Hart dismissed worries about inmate families following inmates to Adelanto and an uptick in crime spurred by the presence of those jails, calling those concerns unfounded.

“It’s not glitzy,” he admitted, “(but) if the public understood the economic benefit that comes with it…”

According to Hart, these projects could do two things for the economically-depressed city: generate much-needed revenue and create jobs.

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