Coalinga is holding a job fair Wednesday and Thursday to hire correctional officers in anticipation that the city-owned Claremont Correctional Facility will reopen.
"It's a roll of the dice" whether the city will get a contract from the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation to house lower-risk inmates at the city's 513-bed, dormitory-style facility, Police Chief Cal Minor said.
But state officials two weeks ago gave the city a list of what needs to be done to get the Claremont ready for inmates, so the City Council gave the green light for a job fair to make it easier to open on time should the deal go through, Minor said.
Officials from the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation could not be reached for comment on Monday, a state holiday.
But the clock is ticking because a federal judge has ordered the state prison system to reduce its population by about 8,000 inmates.
To meet the mandate, prison officials have said they would house lower-risk inmates at "community correctional facilities" in Shafter, Taft, Delano and Coalinga.
Two months ago, state prison director Jeffrey Beard told The Bee that Shafter and Taft would likely get contracts first, with Delano and Coalinga being considered.
Coalinga is eager to get a contract because it's spending $200,000 a year to maintain the unused facility.
If the contract comes through, the city would have 45 days to open, Minor said.
The job fair is necessary because "we'd be under the gun" to interview applicants, do fingerprint checks and verify documents, as well as train the officers, he said. With a list of pre-qualified applicants, training could start right away, he said.
About 68 positions would be needed at full staffing.
The city recently sent letters to former correctional officers -- the Claremont closed two years ago -- and 34 said they would apply, Minor said.
Jobs pay between $16 to $23 an hour.
If you go
When: 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. Wednesday and Thursday
Where: City Hall, 155 W. Durian Ave. in downtown Coalinga
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