Students objecting to yesterday’s closure of Isla Vista’s halfway house may have been protesting the wrong organization, a Federal Bureau of Prisons spokeswoman said.
Traci Billingsley, chief public information officer for the Federal Bureau of Prisons, said the decision to close the program was made not by the bureau, but by Working Alternatives, the company that oversees the halfway house. Approximately 20 people gathered at the house at 6575 Trigo Rd. yesterday morning to see off the evicted residents as they left for facilities in Inglewood and Echo Park near Los Angeles. Over 100 students and local residents rallied to keep the house open last Friday, although their protests did not prolong the life of the 20-year program.
Billingsley said the choice to shut down the building was entirely that of Working Alternatives, which asked the Bureau of Prisons to discontinue their contract.
“The contractor asked us to not continue the contract,” Billingsley said. “Working Alternatives asked us to not extend it to the next option year … I don’t know what they’re doing with the other beds they may have. Most halfway houses have a certain amount of beds, and they contract them to the Bureau of Prisons or the county.”
Fourth-year global studies major and member of the A.S. Student Commission on Racial Equality (SCORE) Katie Joaquin said the halfway house closed as a result of the bias of a Bureau of Prisons regional director who did not use the facility to its full capacity because he believed the program was too soft on residents. Although the building can house 25 to 32 people, it housed only 11 residents at its closure.
“There are always people that want to get into the halfway house but [the director] turned them down because he thought the Isla Vista halfway house was too soft,” Joaquin said. “The budget was also cut to the Bureau of Prisons and they did have to cut back on the halfway house. Instead of paying for it, they can just allocate that money to the other halfway houses.”
Bernardo Trujillo, a fifth-year political science and black studies major and co-chair of SCORE said while it was the company’s choice whether or not to shut down the halfway house, the closure was forced by the bureau’s decision to leave the facility underutilized.
“To a certain extent, the Bureau of Prisons is right — it is ultimately up to Working Alternatives whether or not to close,” Trujillo said. “But the reason that Working Alternatives is closing is because the federal bureau isn’t sending them enough prisoners for them to make money.”