March 1, 1990 —
Surrounded by a couple of dozen unarmed deputies and a smattering of Secret Service agents, President George H.W. Bush and L.A. County Sheriff Sherman Block cut the ribbon to the North County Correctional Facility (NCCF), the newest of four county jail facilities
in Castaic, before a crowd of approximately 2,000 dignitaries. Unlike the three jail facilities of the Pitchess Detention Center (formerly Wayside Honor Rancho), which were intended for misdemeanor offenders serving sentences of 364 days or less, NCCF was purpose-built to house
detainees awaiting trial or otherwise scheduled for court appearances on felony charges, which convictions result in sentences of 1 year or more in state prison. (In the 2010s, with severe prison overcrowding in California,
many state prisoners would stay in place in the county jails at Castaic, pushing out the misdemeanor offenders who were typically sentended to "time served" and community service.)
1990 Board of Superivors, from left: Michael D. Antonovich, Edmund Edelman, Peter Schabarum, Kenneth Hahn, Deane Dana. Photo: L.A. County. Click to enlarge.
Photos from the collection of Jo Anne Darcy, who was both senior field deputy to local county Supervisor Michael D. Antonovich and mayor of the city of Santa Clarita at the time. Darcy can be seen on the stage
at the viewer's right. The only other woman on stage, at the viewer's left, is philanthropist Sybil Brand, whose namesake women's jail facility was in use at this time (1990) but was subsequently destroyed in the 1994 Northridge earthquake.
All five county supervisors are also on stage, as is U.S. Rep. Elton Gallegly (R-Simi Valley), who represented the Santa Clarita Valley and is seen at the viewer's right.
Wide-view photographs and the closeup of President Bush are 8x10s (probably White House photos). The remainder are 4x6-inch Fujicolor prints.
NCCF is a maximum-security complex comprised of five jails within one facility. It
is designed to operate as five separate units, housing approximately 3,600 inmates as of 2012. In addition to the
general inmate housing areas, it has a disciplinary segregation housing area and an infirmary.
President Seeks to Reassure L.A. Deputy Sheriffs
Los Angeles Times | Friday, March 2, 1990.
Click to enlarge.
President Bush, taking the unusual step of injecting the prestige of the White House into a local legal issue, sought Thursday to boost the morale of the Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department in the wake of the corruption indictment of 10 deputies, telling local law enforcement officers, "Don't let it get you down."
With Sheriff Sherman Block sitting at his side, Bush raised the issue of the indictments at a ceremony in Castaic dedicating the new North County Correctional Facility, completed after five years of construction at a cost of $134 million in state and local funds.
For the President, who spent the day in the Los Angeles area, the dedication of the maximum-security jail provided a picture-perfect opportunity to hammer away at his message of support for law enforcement. Bush treated the indictments last week as just a bump in the road.
"I know there have been difficulties. I've read the papers and I've seen the stories this past week about the indictments here," he said. "Don't let it get you down. Yours is the largest Sheriff's Department in the world — 11,000 people fighting the good fight. Keep your heads high.
"If some bad apple turns up — if an officer abuses your trust or ours by doing wrong — we must be that much more dedicated to supporting the countless officers, the millions across this country who honor the law by doing what is right."
The 10 deputies — including all nine members of an elite anti-drug team, and the wife of a deputy — were indicted on a variety of federal charges, among them allegations of stealing $1.4 million in drug money, money laundering and filing of false tax returns.
Block, 65, announced Wednesday that he has taken steps to prevent future drug-related problems in the department. Top officers, including Block, will now undergo periodic drug testing, and some members of the department will have to file financial disclosure statements so the department can keep a closer watch on their assets.
Appointed sheriff in 1982 and elected since to two four-year terms, Block is running for reelection, and has said he does not believe the controversy will affect his chances.
* * *
"The maximum-security jail — its creamy earth tones giving it the appearance of a rock-solid cup of cafe au lait deposited in the incongruous setting of 34 acres on the rolling hillsides of Castaic — has been built to house 2,064 inmates being held before trial. It is intended for those charged with murder, rape, armed robbery and other violent crimes. Those sentenced would be sent to state prisons.
The facility was scheduled to open last spring, but the opening was delayed when some of its high-tech flourishes turned into glitches: Among other problems, the computer-controlled doors malfunctioned. The first inmates are now expected to arrive on Thursday of next week.
On the President's brief tour of the facility, which still awaits its first inmates, he viewed a series of cells equipped with stainless steel toilets and cots with thin mats, and the guards' control center.
Later, before an audience of several hundred law enforcement officers and civic employees from throughout the county, Bush said the visit had made an impression.
"I'll tell you — it does concentrate the mind," he said of the facility he dubbed "Super Max."
"Jails and prisons do testify to something in the nature of man that most people put aside — prefer not to think about: the capacity for violence, the power of corruption, the ability to turn our back on what's right — and do wrong. But they are also the ultimate proof of the community's determination to protect itself and serve justice," he said.
The President emphasized that the construction costs were met entirely from California resources, "every penny produced by state and local funding."
"That's a sign that your vibrant community, the Los Angeles community, the Los Angeles taxpayer, knows that in the fight against crime and drugs, tough talk is simply not enough," Bush said.
It was also a sign of the federal budget crunch, and the reluctance of the Administration to contribute to the construction of local prisons to house those convicted on state charges.
As for the contributions of the federal government, he said, "this year alone over $1.5 billion will be devoted to prison construction to build over 24.000 new beds."
Later in the day, Bush attended a private luncheon with contributors to the Republican Governors' Assn., with the approximately $500,000 expected to have been raised at the $25,000-a-couple meal being devoted to Republican gubernatorial races.
Bush also met for 45 minutes with former President Ronald Reagan, at Reagan's office in the Fox Plaza Building, and in the evening he addressed the 100th anniversary dinner of the California Chamber of Commerce at the Century Plaza.
Presidential Dedication for Jail.
Bush Stands Firm on Crime; Delivers Pro-law Pep Talk.
The Signal | Friday, May 2, 1990.
Click to enlarge.
Castaic — President Bush pledged to fight for tougher crime laws, including the death penalty for killers of police officers, during dedication ceremonies Thursday for a new maximum-security Castaic jail.
Bush cut the ribbon for the North County Correctional Facility (NCCF) after delivering a pro-law enforcement speech to a crowd of about 2,000 Santa Clarita Valley, Los Angeles County government and law enforcement officials.
"Fighting to win against crime and drugs means tougher laws and I've called on Congress to pass a tough, no-nonsense anti-crime package. .... Tough talk is simply not enough," Bush said.
"And for anyone who murders an officer of the law, justice means nothing less than the death penalty," the president said, prompting a round of applause from the crowd.
Bush said suffer sentences, an end to easy parole and "no deals for criminals carrying a gun" would help ensure that "every American citizen can know that the law is on their side — not the criminal's."
The president focused on the need to be tough on crime after touring the high-tech jail, which is scheduled to begin housing inmates next week after months of technical delays — including a complex cell-locking system that did not work and toilets that would not flush.
The problems apparently have been solved and the $134-million jail was officially dedicated in a ceremony attended by the county Board of Supervisors, Santa Clarita Mayor Jo Anne Darcy, Sheriff Sherman Block and Rep. Elton Gallegly, R-Simi Valley.
Supervisor Mike Antonovich, who represents the SCV, stressed the need for jail facilities to help fight the uphill battle against drugs because, "Eighty percent of the current county jail population (24,000) are there for drug-related crimes.
"Thanks to President Bush and drug czar William Bennett, Los Angeles has been declared a high-intensity drug traffic zone," which will provide added resources in the anti-drug battle, Antonovich said.
Bush, who described the new jail as "perhaps the most modern facility in the country," said his tour of the jail was brief but enlightening.
"It was long enough to bring anyone face to face with the reality of what institutions like this represent," he said.
"Jails and prisons do testify to something in the nature of man that most people put aside, prefer not to think about: the capacity for violence, the power of corruption, the ability to turn our back on what's right and do wrong," Bush said.
"But they are also the ultimate proof of the community's determination to protect itself and serve justice."
The president said the new jail will help ensure that there will be "no more criminals out on the street because there is not enough cell space to hold them."
And the federal government will do its part to keep criminals off the streets by spending $1.5 billion this year on new prison construction totaling 24,000 beds nationwide, Bush said.
Bush, referring to federal indictments last week of 10 Los Angeles Sheriff's deputies for alleged drug money skimming, encouraged Sheriff's deputies and cadets to "keep your heads high" in the face of adversity.
"Don't let it get you down. Yours is the largest sheriff's department in the world — 11,000 people fighting the good fight. ... Keep working with us," Bush said. "You are society's unsung heroes."
The president said he was reminded of law enforcement officers' dedication when he met some of the deputies who will work in the new jail and deal with inmates on a daily basis.
"I'm saying to myself, 'This isn't the easy way — there would be other ways they could find to make a living — but it is the dedicated way.'"
Mayor Darcy said Bush's speech helped get out an important message about the new maximum-security jail.
"In Southern California, it is the most high-tech prison that we have, and it puts out the message that we are going to lock up the offenders."
She added that Bush's speech was inspirational for law enforcement officers: "It told those officers that even though some might make a mistake, law and order is the way we go."
NCCF Lt. Jim Stevenson agreed, saying the president's visit had a noticeably positive effect on the jail staff.
"It's a tremendous morale booster. ... It makes you very proud," he said, adding, "The president went out of his way to shake everybody's hand that he came in contact with. I mean, you could just see the deputies' eyes light up."
Hart High Band Plays for Bush's Visit.
The Signal | Friday, May 2, 1990.
Castaic — It's not often that high school musicians get to be the warm-up act for the president of the United States.
But the Chieftains, a jazz ensemble of about 20 Hart High School band members, experienced that opportunity Thursday.
"It was kind of a once-in-a-lifetime experience to play for a president," said bass trombone player Mike Johnson after providing entertainment at dedication ceremonies for the North County Correctional Facility, a new maximum-security Castaic jail.
President Bush cut the ribbon for the new jail in a ceremony attended by about 2,000. Johnson, 16, said he enjoyed Bush's speech, which focused on the need for lough crime and drug laws.
"He needed a backdrop to say something about the drug problem and his view on that. ... He needed a backdrop, and that was the perfect time to do it."
Johnson said the excitement of playing for a large crowd packed with top county and federal brass actually made it easier to perform.
"You always need to play loud outside, and the excitement made you play loud."
Band director George Stone said he was proud of his students, who played with control despite their excitement.
"It came very fast because we were notified about two days ago," said Stone, whose band played tunes ranging from big-band standards to contemporary jazz compositions — with only about two days of rehearsal.
"I was very, very pleased with the way these kids played. This is the finest performance this year, to date, that I've heard these kids play."
He said he enjoyed sharing the spotlight with a Marine Corps band, which played on the opposite side of the stage. The two band directors took turns — two tunes each — and used hand signals to let each other know when they would play.
"We had this nice little communication going. It was actually very unique," Stone said.
Stefanie Wagoner, a 16-year-old keyboard player, said the whole experience was unique.
"I thought it was a great experience. The only part where the excitement affected me was when I was soloing," Wagoner said. "The crowd definitely helped us play better."
She said Bush's remarks may change the way people view law enforcement officers.
"He supports them so much in his speech, and people respect them more. I respect them more," Wagoner said, adding, "Most people think of police officers just driving around and giving out tickets. I realize more just how dangerous their job is."