Supes Suggest Light, Airy New Jail Designs

Anti-jail protesters show up to oppose project moving forward.

Activists again clashed with the San Mateo County Board of Supervisors Tuesday over proposed design strategies for the new jail that is to be built in Redwood City.

As was the case at a previous meeting last month, signs touting "No New San Mateo County Jail" smattered the room while supervisors met with Sheriff Greg Munks and representatives from the architecture firm hired to help develop the new prison.

And while supervisors provided feedback to the design firm HOK about what kind of look would be most appealing for the new jail, anti-prison advocates pled to halt the project's construction.

"It is not too late to stop building this jail," said Emily Harris, a representative of Californians United for a Responsible Budget, during the public comment portion of the meeting held in the board chambers at the County Center in Redwood City.

Harris was one of about five speakers who attended the meeting to protest the jail construction. Others also echoed the same sentiment, advocating for the county leadership to consider not moving forward with the jail construction.

But little of the discussion between the supervisors, Munks and design firm representatives indicated that the progress on the project would slow, despite the expected total cost of building the new jail to range between $100 and $165 million.

As well, the project's annual operating expense is projected to be about $44 million, but the county budget deficit still looms somewhere near $50 million this year.

Regardless, according to project manager Jeff Goodell from HOK architecture, the rights to build the prison will likely go out to bid to construction firms in the spring. The time before will be spent planning the design, look and feel of the new jail.

According to the discussion Tuesday, supervisors said they favored jail designs that were light and airy that featured a lot of natural light, while they opposed those that offered a lot of negative space.

"I don't like the idea of jails that look like warehouses for people," said Supervisor Don Horsley.

Supervisors also discussed the types of programs and opportunities that would be offered inmates that would help them hone skills and talents while serving time.

Culinary arts, horticulture, technology and recycling were proposed by supervisors as the type of programs that inmates could participate in.

"The real goal is to reduce recidivism," said Supervisor Adrienne Tissier.

Supervisors took no official action at the meeting yesterday, but the feedback provided will be used by architects to develop new designs of the jail.


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mpcyclist June 07, 2012 at 06:57 PM
Call me cynical but it looks like another one of those deals made in the backroom and public comment is just window dressing to be ignored and swept aside, as usual, by the powers that be. Been there, done that. It's all about the money and who gets to feather their nest. Regarding Supervisor Horsley’s comment that he doesn’t “…like the idea of jails that look like warehouses for people,” does he think putting lipstick on a pig changes anything? How about a “Welcome” mat at the front entrance. Regarding proposed courses and programs to be taught, the suggestions made by Supervisor Tissier are a good beginning but should be expanded to include psychological evaluation and counseling. Also included should be how to successfully exit a gang without getting killed, how to avoid being drawn into a gang in the first place, basic literacy (the three R’s) and ESL, Crack Anomymous (like AA), Ethics and Morals (for the guards as well) and social skills required to operate in society at large. As well intentioned as this all sounds, why hasn’t this already been implemented in the current San Mateo County penal system already? Lack of funds? Well, how about using the funds intended for the new jail to initiate some pilot programs, curbing excessive prison guard salaries and pensions, as well as reducing excessive administrative perks at the top echelons? There’s a lot of “low hanging” fruit if there is a political will to pick it.
Reality Check June 07, 2012 at 09:56 PM
Largely agreed. The new jail is more same old, same old ... and SMCo. cannot (should not!) afford it. (Especially now that the budget gap has grown to $33m due to the failure of the hotel and parking taxes this week. And the rental car tax is just barely holding on for dear life.) Hey, and how about a "Thank you and come again soon!" sign at the exit to go with that "Welcome" mat at the entrance?


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