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SANTA CLARITA/ANTELOPE VALLEY : Chamber Board Backs Idea of 2nd Prison in Lancaster

TIMES STAFF WRITER

The board of directors of the Lancaster Chamber of Commerce plans today to formally endorse the concept of the state building a second prison in Lancaster, an estimated $250-million project that would employ 800 to 1,000 people.

Directors of the more than 1,000-member chamber presented their preliminary position at a membership meeting Tuesday. After the stance drew general support, chamber board members said they planned to adopt a formal resolution today.

The endorsement comes just seven months after the February opening of a $207-million prison in Lancaster--the first state prison built in Los Angeles County. Much of the community fought a long but ultimately losing battle to halt the project during 1990 and 1991.

Mike Pope, a local businessman and board member, said he opposed the first prison, citing an emotional response to “the fear thing.” But now, Pope is convinced that a second prison would be good for the city, bringing jobs and other benefits.

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State Department of Corrections Director James Gomez raised the prospect of a second prison in Lancaster during remarks at the June 4 dedication ceremonies for the existing 3,700-inmate facility. And Lancaster city officials quickly opened talks with the state about a site near Fox Field.

A combination prison and inmate reception center is under discussion that would replace the long-debated plan for a state prison in the East Los Angeles area. That was to have been a companion facility to the original Lancaster prison, but fierce community opposition killed the project a year ago.

Lancaster chamber officials said their support for the prison will be contingent on the state’s also agreeing to provide extra money, both to install oversize infrastructure to permit industrial development nearby and to help fund school and park projects.


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