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Supes Greenlight New Jail

Size and building grant approved, despite passionate opposition from one supervisor.

The San Mateo County Board of Supervisors voted Tuesday to move forward with plans to build in Redwood City, despite the staunch opposition of a supervisor.

Supervisors voted 4-1 to approve Sheriff Greg Munks' request to file an initial statement of interest on the county's behalf that enables him to apply for state grant money, which would be used to pay for some of the new jail's construction cost.

The board also selected, by a vote of 4-1, the proposed Option B jail model, which will hold between 488 and 552 beds for inmates.

In both cases, the sole vote in opposition was that of .

Do you support the new jail? Vote in .

Pine, who represents District 1, expressed concerns about the vigor with which the county has pursued the effort to build a new jail. The typically calm Pine became uncharacteristically animated when addressing his frustrations with what he perceived to be a lack of desire on behalf of the county to seriously look into alternative programs that could help former inmates become productive members of society.

"We have to reduce our reliance on incarceration," he said. "Our debate today has been about the jail. We have no plan in place and no money earmarked for new alternatives to reduce recidivism."

He said programs that have proven successful in helping former inmates transition from being behind bars into the free world are available, and that not enough research has been done on how these alternatives may help the residents of San Mateo County.
 
"We have to get serious about alternatives to incarceration," Pine said. 

The approved model includes constructing a transitional housing program as part of the jail that will help former inmates readjust back into society.

But no program has been selected yet by the Sheriff's Office, or the county. Sheriff Munks has said that decision will be made later, indicating that it could be operated by a non-profit organization, or some other outside entity.

Regarding other reasons for his opposition, building and running a new jail at a time when the county is struggling with ways to cope with a $50 million dollar structural deficit. The total cost of building the new jail is expected to be between $100 and $165 million, and the annual operating expense is projected to be about $44 million, according to a district report.

The grant that Sheriff Munks will apply for could result in the county being awarded as much as $100 million. If it is received, the county's jail-related debt could be reduced by almost 60 percent. But a local jurisdiction would be responsible for matching at least 10 percent of the total awarded amount, said the report.

The initial statement of interest is due October 21; formal applications are due January 11; and the grants will be awarded in February, according to updated information from the county.

Pine wanted the Sheriff to return back to the supervisors for a final approval before sending the formal application. His attempt to amend a motion that would require that extra step fell flat; no other supervisors supported the idea.

A defeated Pine eventually seemed to realize that he was fighting an uphill battle, and that his passionate message was falling on deaf ears. And though his message was applauded by jail critics who spoke at the meeting, ultimately his fellow supervisors overruled Pine's emotional appeal.

Supervisor Rose Jacobs Gibson, who represents District 4, said that though she see's Pine's perspective on some of his issues with the jail planning process, she approved of its construction to allow the the county to accommodate the influx of inmates coming from the state system to San Mateo County.

A state mandated went into effect October 1. It is expected that about 400 former inmates convicted of non-violent crimes currently in the state parole department will become the responsibility of the county's probation department.

Jacobs Gibson furthered her justification for the need to build the new jail, saying it will alleviate the overcrowding issues the county is experiencing in existing facilities.   San Mateo County has the second most overcrowded incarceration facilities in the state, operating with about 300 inmates more than the population capacity of 834 beds, according to Sheriff Munks.

The Option B jail model approved by the board allows for the construction of additional space in the jail facility that can be transformed into more beds for inmates should the overcrowding problem persist.

Meanwhile, Supervisors Carol Groom, Adrienne Tissier and Don were quite clear in their support to build the new jail.

The county east of Highway 101 on Chemical Way in Redwood City; the new jail will likely be built there.

Lea Cuniberti-Duran October 05, 2011 at 03:49 PM
Kuddos to Pine. I feel my vote to him was worth it.
Susan Swope October 05, 2011 at 09:03 PM
I agree with Supervisor Pine's contention that we need to look at alternatives to incarceration. We also need to do more (much more) for rehabilitation and much more for prevention, I am convinced that we also need a new jail, in part to help achieve his rehabilitation goals. First of all, we need to replace the current women's jail. It should have been torn down years ago. There is no space for programming there to speak of. Second of all, we need a place to put those convicted and sentenced to serve their sentences locally. Keeping people close to home is a good idea. Inmates who maintain ties to their families have been shown to have lower recidivism rates than those who don't. (That is why sending prisoners out of state is a terrible practice that should be avoided at all costs.) As I understand it, the new jail will have substantial program space. If we use that space to help inmates turn their lives around through programming designed to meet their particular needs, we could probably more than halve the current recidivism rates we are seeing for inmates released from state prison. And it will cost us less--a lot less. And it will improve public safety. What a concept.

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