Last week the County Board of Supervisors unanimously agreed to consider placing an inmate re-entry facility in a detention basin next to the high school, which is due to open in the next school year near Kaiser Hospital on Deer Valley Road in Antioch. It's one of five sites in the county under consideration for the transitional prison.
"My blood boils over this insane proposal to build a prison virtually straddling both the new medical magnet school and Deer Valley High," wrote Walter Ruehlig, president of the Antioch Unified School District (AUSD), in an e-mail.
"I encourage Antioch to protest at the (supervisors) chambers and on the streets this cruel mockery of all Antioch's struggling efforts to redo its image as a dead-end dumping ground for projects too soiled for other county towns. What next, a toxic dumping ground, medical marijuana clinic or gambling casino next to our schools?
"The ship is turning around at Deer Valley High School, and the magnet school promises to be a milestone in putting the AUSD on the map. What kind of an ad will that be? 'Visit the state-of-the-art medical-themed magnet school, and while you're in the neighborhood, drop by our prison.'"
The AUSD Board held an emergency meeting Tuesday morning at which they agreed to send a letter to the supervisors, asking them to vote against the Antioch site, which is also not far from Deer Valley High School and Diablo Vista Elementary School.
"A prison must not be the backdrop for the rigorous and meaningful learning environment in which students are engaged every day," the letter states. "The success and safety of all of our students and families are paramount. The news of this potential site has set a firestorm of concern and anger among families, staff and students. We strongly encourage each of you to cast a vote opposing the site near Deer Valley High School. The future of our students depends on it."
The Antioch City Council at its Feb. 13 meeting also agreed to send a letter to the supervisors asking that the Antioch site be removed from consideration for a prison. And several council members blasted Supervisor Federal Glover for not opposing the site at the supervisors' meeting, although Glover subsequently sent the council an e-mail expressing his opposition to it.
Mayor Don Freitas said he has received e-mails and phone calls from residents pointing out the rise in crime in Antioch and asking him, "Why in heaven's name would we bring in a jail facility that might exacerbate this situation?"
"I was quite shocked when they listed that property" as a possible prison site, said Councilman Arne Simonsen. "It is disappointing. What's more disappointing is that at the Board of Supervisors meeting there were no objections spoken by Supervisor Glover against the Antioch facility. He's very familiar with our General Plan or is supposed to be, and should know what is planned in that area. The fact that he didn't say anything bothers me."
Councilman Reggie Moore said that a facility that helps rehabilitate convicts is necessary to reduce recidivism, but the Antioch site "is highly inappropriate. In layman's terms, this is a crazy idea. It doesn't work for me and I'm sure it doesn't work for this community.
"We want to make sure that (the supervisors) know we mean business, that this community is not going to be the one where you dump in Contra Costa County. I find that highly offensive."
Former City Councilman Jim Conley was particularly tough on Glover in his remarks to the council.
"The action on the part of the Board of Supervisors, and especially what is considered our supervisor Federal Glover, shows a total lack of respect for the people of Antioch and East County. He's been out there and wanting to hold the line and not build anything out there, and yet it's OK to build a prison. It's just another 'in your face' that Federal Glover has shown to this part of the county.
"This man does not belong in politics. He's not qualified to make decisions. When people like this make such blatant errors and get the people of Antioch riled, when we're already concerned about our property values, to think that they are going to put a prison in an area like that just shows total ignorance."
Councilman Brian Kalinowski also took Glover to task for not informing Antioch officials that the prison site proposal would be on the supervisors' agenda.
"This is a prime example of (Glover's) inability to represent (his) constituents," said Kalinowski. "It's reached what I consider to be a ridiculous level. If you did not support the option (for an Antioch prison), it's your responsibility to articulate that."
Glover's aide Ed Diokno said via e-mail that the reason Glover did not speak up against the Antioch site at the supervisors' meeting was because "he knew full well that during the process, the Antioch site would be removed from consideration; but if he voiced opposition at that point, the other supervisors would have used that same NIMBY argument to protect their districts."
The Not In My Back Yard syndrome did occur at the supervisors' Feb. 12 meeting when Supervisor Mary Piepho voiced opposition to the Antioch site and made a motion to consider only the other four potential sites: the County Jail Farm on Marsh Creek Road, Cummings Skyway near Highway 80 and two sites at the Martinez waterfront.
Supervisor Gayle Uilkema raised objections to several of those sites, which are in her district, and said that all five site options should remain on the table for consideration.
Glover, who chairs the board meetings, said, "I'm willing to open it up that all of the items be placed before us and be reviewed."
But the next day, he issued a 400-word statement saying, "I strongly oppose locating any inmate re-entry facility … anywhere in Contra Costa County."
Glover said he recognizes the success of such facilities "in turning inmates into productive citizens," but many similar prisons are much smaller than the one proposed in the county and are run by private agencies, resulting in "less of an impact on existing communities."
He said more information is needed on the costs and whether "the inmates who would be housed in these proposed facilities would be placed there because they can be rehabilitated or simply because the state needs to relieve its overcrowded prisons."
His statement concludes by saying, "Having a prison in Contra Costa County is a risk our communities cannot afford. I will strongly fight any proposal to place a prison in our area - and urge the other embers of the Board of Supervisors to join me in opposing such a site."
A final decision by the supervisors regarding sites to submit for consideration by state officials is scheduled for March 11.