Private firm to run city jail could save money

COSTA MESA — The city could save more than $600,000 a year by contracting with an international security firm to run its jail, according to a city staff report.

G4S Secure Solutions was one of two organizations that responded to Costa Mesa’s request for bids to staff and operate the city jail. Newport Beach also submitted a bid, but it only offered to house Costa Mesa’s inmates at the Newport jail.

G4S’s bid suggested that it run the city jail for $364,640 annually — a fraction of the $1.3 million in annual costs the Costa Mesa Police Department personnel needs to operate it.

However, the company would likely need twice as many people working in the jail than what the city had originally requested, so it would likely cost about $614,000, according to the staff report for Tuesday’s City Council meeting. That figure, however, is still a 46% savings over current jail costs.

City staff are only seeking suggestions from the council Tuesday on how to proceed: to continue discussions with both Newport and G4S to firm up details, put out another call for bids, or just give up on outsourcing jail services altogether.

Though the council may elect to continue discussions with G4S, that’s as far as it can go.

Costa Mesa is looking to outsource its jail along with more than a dozen other city services to reduce operating and pension costs in future years.

An Orange County Superior Court judge signed a preliminary injunction last week prohibiting the city from outsourcing any city jobs to private companies until the issue is resolved in court with city employees. The city can continue exploring its many options and outsource jobs to public entities.

Costa Mesa police book up to 5,000 people annually, according to the staff report.

G4S operates jails in Irvine, La Habra, Beverly Hills, Whittier and Azusa.