CHINO - City officials have expressed their objection, even threatening court action, to state plans to add more inmates at the already overcrowded California Institute for Men.

"We surely don't want more prisoners to be brought in," said Mayor Dennis Yates. "It's a general threat to our public safety."

As part of ongoing efforts to improve conditions at California's prisons and to reduce costs, the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation has said it plans to build a new Level II facility at five possible locations, one of them being CIM.

Level II inmates are the second lowest on the placement and security scale for state prisoners. A Level II facility primarily consists of open dormitories with a secure perimeter possibly patrolled by armed guards, according to the corrections agency.

Depending on available space, the state could build at CIM as many as three 792-bed units or a single facility with a second combining two 792-bed units.

The City Council at this week's meeting authorized staffers to send a letter to the Corrections Department outlining their concerns.

They are also encouraging residents to attend an upcoming environmental impact report meeting and voice their thoughts about the possibility of another facility opening up on CIM property.

Despite sharp reductions in the number of inmates at the Chino prison, its prison population is still at about 160 percent of capacity.

Safety issues aside, Yates worries another prison facility will further strain Chino and surrounding cities' resources.

"They tax our services (by using) our fire departments," Yates said. "Most (calls) are medical aids. That means that firefighter or ambulance is not available to the honest taxpaying citizens of Chino and Chino Hills."

The state will hold two meetings to discuss the expansion plan at 3 and 5 p.m. Jan. 30 at City Hall, 13220 Central Ave.

If authorities do decide to build on CIM property, Yates is ready.

"I think it will be cost-prohibitive. We will contest it and if need be, take them to court," he said.

State Senate Bill 1022, which authorized the new construction, says specifically, "any new beds constructed...shall be supported by rehabilitative programming for inmates" including vocational, substance abuse, employment assistance and pre-release planning.

Corrections officials anticipate the need of new facilities because proposed changes to its inmate classification criteria will most likely result in an increase in Level II inmates, according to the official notice of preparation of the environmental impact report.

City officials hope the condition of CIM, one of the oldest prisons in California, may keep authorities from building there.

In the early 2000s, CIM cost more to operate than any other prison in California due in part to poor maintenance, a high number of open positions and a high cost of overtime.

CHANGE OF MEETING: New meetings time and locations: 3 p.m. and again at 6 p.m. at the Chaffey College Chino Community Center, 5890 College Park Ave., Chino.

beatriz.valenzuela@inlandnewspapers.com