A photo of a large, overbearing sign that tells people they have arrived at Chuckawalla Valley and Ironwood state prisons.
A large wooden sign lets drivers know they have arrived at the site of Chuckawalla Valley and Ironwood state prisons. (Yannick Peterhans for TN News)

A report published last month shows the devastating impacts the proposed closure of Chuckawalla Valley State Prison (CVSP) would have on the city of Blythe and surrounding communities.

According to the report, commissioned by the city of Blythe and prepared by Capitol Matrix Consulting, the proposed prison closure could result in a loss of $2.9 million of revenue for the city.

“We have made a lot of positive strides in improving our financial situation, but with a loss of that magnitude, I don’t know how we could continue without cutting programs or services,” Mallory Crecelius, city clerk/interim city manager, said. “We just don’t have the revenue to offset a loss of that magnitude.”

The report also estimates that the prison closure could result in a loss of roughly $5 million in revenue for Palo Verde Unified School District, a loss both Crecelius and the report said would be difficult for the district to overcome.

“The school district was not anticipating losses of up to 4.9 million, and they cannot work through those losses without cutting programs,” she said.

The district had originally estimated a loss of roughly $3 million, which it believed could be handled through attrition and other funding mechanisms available to the district. However, as the report notes, “a $5 million revenue reduction would require the district to reduce its expenditures and its workforce.”

In addition to impacts to the city and local school district, the report found that jobs directly and indirectly supported by CVSP account for about 12% of total jobs held by Blythe residents and the wages supported by the prison account for about 22% of total wages in Blythe.

“The loss of jobs and income associated with potential closure of CVSP will lead to substantial reductions in business sales and profits, leading to additional business closures, reductions in property values, and significant increases in the rates of unemployment and poverty in Blythe,” the report said.

Conversely, closing the California Rehabilitation Center (CRC) in Norco would have a very small impact to that community for a variety of reasons, including the ability to redevelop the land and the size of the city of Norco and its surrounding communities. It’s estimated that the amount of income lost due to CRC’s closure would be less than 2% of total income in the surrounding communities.

“It really shows one of our points that this isn’t going to impact Norco at all, but it’s going to have significant and detrimental impacts to the city of Blythe,” Crecelius said.

“It’s obvious that [the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation] did not do any of their own studies and look at this when they selected Chuckawalla,” she continued. “We hope that CDCR, as well as the governor and the state legislature, will take a look at it and understand that these decisions have real impacts on real people.”

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Alicia Ramirez is the publisher of TN News and the founder and CEO of its parent company TN News.