By Joe Nelson, The Sun
Posted: 11/20/14, 12:25 AM PST | Updated: 47 secs ago

ADELANTO >> The City Council late Wednesday night and early Thursday morning tentatively approved a fourth and fifth private prison in this High Desert community, which will bring with them six additional sheriff’s deputies for the city.

Opponents and supporters of the prisons packed the Council Chambers during the heated council meeting, which continued past midnight.

The Geo Group proposes to build a 1,000-bed minimum security prison at the northeast corner of Holly and Koala roads. Doctor Robert Crants, the former CEO of Corrections Corp. of America, the largest private corrections company in the United States, proposes to build a 3,264-bed prison at the northeast corner of Violet and Emerald roads.

Crants and Geo Group CEO George Zoley say their prisons will create more than 1,000 permanent and temporary jobs and another revenue stream for the city.

Both projects were approved by the council on condition that each applicant fund three additional sheriff’s deputies for the city and promise not to release inmates into the city. Those conditions must be put in writing by the time both ordinances return to the council on Dec. 10 for adoption.

Still, the reconfigured City Council on Dec. 10 has the option of rejecting the prison proposals outright or tabling them for further discussion or revision. A new mayor and two new council members will be sworn in that day.

Opponents said the city doesn’t need more prisons, that it needs to be more innovative and creative in attracting new businesses.

“The whole city is practically a prison,” Adelanto resident Terry Delgado said. “We’d rather have apartment buildings than more prisons. We’ve got to focus on other things.”

Supporters of Geo Group’s prison, mainly employees of the company who live in Adelanto, said the company provided them jobs and improved their quality of life.

“Geo (Group) has changed my life and my children’s life,” said Geo employee and resident Regina Duran. “I’m no longer on welfare. My two children have graduated high school and are now Geo employees.”

For council members, the decision wasn’t easy, with the exception of Councilman Jermaine Wright, who made it clear from the start he wasn’t going to approve projects that residents clearly didn’t want.

Councilman Ed Camargo grew frustrated at all the heckling from the audience, and at one point toward the end of the meeting requested a five-minute break so he could regroup before deciding on Crants’ proposal.

“I’ve lost sleep over this over the last six days,” Camargo said.

In the end, he concluded the prisons were an economic benefit to the city and posed no public risk. He voted for both projects.

Councilman Steven Baisden made no bones about why the financially strapped city, which still teeters on the brink of bankruptcy, wanted the prisons.

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