There will be one less prison in California, after a judge thwarted Susanville’s effort to block closure of its prison.

by Shakeer Rahman, Dax Proctor, Woods Ervin, and Viju Mathew, Truthout

On September 8, visiting Lassen County Judge Robert F. Moody dismissed a lawsuit by the town of Susanville that intended to force the continued operation of the California Correctional Center (CCC), a 60-year-old state prison requiring $503 million in repairs. Judge Moody’s ruling marks the end of the town’s year-long fight to stop CCC from closing. It also is an advance for both the Gavin Newsom administration’s criminal legal reform strategy and toward the goals of prison closure advocates.

CCC was supposed to shut its doors back in June 2022, but shortly after Governor Newsom announced the plans for its closure — which is estimated to save taxpayers $122 million annually — the City of Susanville filed a lawsuit against the Newsom administration to block the scheduled closure. The lawsuit asserted that the state must keep on shipping prisoners to CCC in order to satisfy Susanville’s financial dependence on imprisonment. If the prison closes, the lawsuit declared, how will the town’s residents pay their mortgages and fund their schools?

Sheriff's Office deputies work with inmates in the old, outdated jail just before the opening of department's new facility

The town of Susanville relies on three prisons — two state-owned prisons, including CCC, and one federal prison — to anchor its local economy. Susanville is a prime example of the “big prison – small town” economic model popularized across the rural United States in 1980s and 1990s, in which the state claimed building large state prisons would aid small towns by making them predominantly reliant on the incarceration system for economic stability, including jobs, housing, small businesses and state-funded dollars for town infrastructure. This has not produced the economic boom that towns such as Susanville originally envisioned, often leaving them without a developed economy and with the toxic environmental and social impacts of prisons.

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