McFarland greenlights converting state prisons into ICE detention centers

Amid a series of protests, the McFarland City Council approved two proposals on Thursday that will convert two state prisons into ICE detention centers.

The proposals passed 4-0. Councilman Stephen McFarland recused himself from the votes due to a conflict of interest.

Under the proposal, private prison company GEO Group Inc. will convert the Golden State Modified Community Correctional Facility and the Central Valley Modified Community Correctional Facility into annexes of the Mesa Verde ICE Processing Center in Bakersfield.

Both facilities currently hold 700 beds and housed state inmates through the California Department of Correction and Rehabilitation.

In the meeting, Interim City Manager Larry Pennell said the ICE detention centers would annually bring in in $500,000 in mitigation fees and $50,000 to the police and fire departments.

The facilities would provide over 400 jobs, and entry-level officers would see a salary increase from around $34,000 to over $96,000, according to reports.

At the meeting, GEO Vice President David Venturella said that the company will support McFarland by giving a $1,000 scholarship to all graduating high school seniors in the city going to college or vocational school for the 15 years of the federal contract for the detention centers.

Various groups and community members have protested the proposals for several months.

The American Civil Liberties Union, the Immigrant Legal Resource Center and Freedom for Immigrants sent letters to the city in opposition of converting the facilities to ICE detention centers.

Appearing via Zoom, United Farm Workers co-founder Dolores Huerta sought to have the decision postponed until McFarland’s City Council could meet in-person.

Daniel Gligich is a reporter for The San Joaquin Valley Sun, focusing on Fresno State Athletics and the southern San Joaquin Valley. Email him at