Grand Jury: County Lockups Filling; ‘Significant’ Costs to Enlarge Facilities

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    NEWSLETTERS

    Local taxpayers figure to be digging deeper and deeper into their checking accounts to pay for local jails and detention facilities.

    That prediction comes from a just-released report by the San Diego County Grand Jury. Read the full report here

    With the state under federal court orders to reduce prison populations, non-violent "low level" felons have been sentenced to county jails since late 2011, under the AB 109 “prison realignment” law.

    Those lockups, say grand jurors, are now getting so full that more space, beds and detention personnel are needed.

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    "The system's facilities were never designed for long-term-stay people,” grand jury foreman Gregory Ny said in an interview Tuesday. "We've got people that are going to be incarcerated for as long as ten years. And with that comes increased issues of housing, medical treatment."

    It all adds up to “significant” unknown future costs, Ny warned: “It's not like building a warehouse or building a home or hotel."

    Some $300 million is being spent to rebuild Las Colinas Women's Detention Center in Santee, to triple its current capacity to 1,250 inmates.

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    The first phase is scheduled for completion this summer; the second and last phase, next year.

    Meantime, space is being added for 400 more beds at the men’s "re-entry" facility on East Otay Mesa.

    Given that the state hasn't reimbursed the counties for the full cost of the transitioning more offenders to local custody and probation, there are questions as to what extent the governor and lawmakers will help subsidize the counties' jail construction budgets.

    "We go up a lot of times and talk to 'Sacramento',” says Jan Caldwell, spokeswoman for Sheriff Bill Gore. “ They're well aware we have issues here -- as do other counties in California. So if they're going to give us this 'population', we need the financial tools to deal with it."

    The expansion projects also carry added costs for hiring and training new deputies to manage the rising head counts -- 250 more female deputies will be needed at Las Colinas alone, at a time when recruiting efforts aimed at women are falling short of goals.

    "It's hard sometimes to find women who want to work in law enforcement,” Caldwell told NBC 7. “They might have other careers, they have families, young children, other things that come into play here."

    One encouraging note in the grand jury report: Inmate deaths in our local jails have trended down over the past five years, from 12 in 2009 to 8 last year.

    Of the five-year total of 49, 16 were listed as suicides and three as homicides.

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