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Fall 2008

Rural Prison Draws Opposition

Rural Yolo County residents are fighting back against the Board of Supervisors decision to place a 500 bed re-entry prison in the small rural town of Madison. The plan is part of Assembly Bill 900 that allows for the construction of state re-entry facilities in communities throughout our state. In exchange the county would receive $30 million for expanding its overcrowded jail.

The residents of rural Yolo County have banned together to protect their rural agricultural community from being labeled a “prison town”. The site that was selected in a 3 to 1 vote of the Board of Supervisors, with Chamberlain voting no and Yamada abstaining, was to place the facility in what is currently an alfalfa field adjacent to the Madison Migrant Labor Camp. 

The intent of Assembly Bill 900, was to construct facilities “in urban areas, to the extent possible”, but Yolo County chose from numerous rural locations, only one possible location was within the city limits of Woodland and none within the cities of Davis, West Sacramento or Winters.

The opposition to the facility has created the “Save Rural Yolo County” group that has launched a website and an extensive letter Save Rural Yolo County Logowriting campaign to show the California Department of Corrections the overwhelming opposition to the facility. The group vows to show that Madison, and other rural Yolo County residents, do not want urban problems in the backyards of rural residents. 

Only a few inmates are residents of the rural communities of Madison, Esparto, Zamora, Dunnigan and Capay, which is why this is so puzzling to the residents of these communities. The proposal to locate the state prison re-entry facility of Madison comes with many negative impacts to the community such as: lack of water and infrastructure; traffic congestion on rural roads; and building in an identified FEMA high risk floodplain. Furthermore, the plan is inconsistent with the County’s mission to preserve agriculture in rural Yolo County.

The lure of the $30 million dollars to the County of Yolo is very attractive, but the town of Madison will see little or no benefit from that money. Many speculate that with our states’ current budget situation that Yolo County would not receive the entire $30 million, yet the facility would be in place under the jurisdiction of the state.

In addition, the Yolo County Farm Bureau has filed a lawsuit against the County, for failure to follow state and local environmental laws. The lawsuit says the proposed prison will significantly impact farmland, but Yolo County failed to conduct the required environmental review before voting to approve the Madison location. The lawsuit further states, that the county violated the Williamson Act by failing to notify the state of the plans to build a prison in an agricultural preserve.

Family Water Alliance supports the position of the Farm Bureau and stands behind the residents of rural Yolo County. This is just one of the many issues that effect rural communities’ throughout the nation. It is imperative that we stand together and protect our valuable resources and assure that our children have a safe and prosperous community to grow up in.■

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