Fresh on the heels of yet another Santa Barbara Grand Jury report calling for the construction of a North County Jail, Sheriff Bill Brown will be in front of the Board of Supervisors this Tuesday, asking them to place a half-cent sales tax on the November ballot to pay for the construction and operation of a new 304-bed jail. In addition to the jail, the tax would cover other law enforcement and public safety costs, pay for refurbishment of the South County Jail facility, and pay for preventative and recidivism programs to make a dent in jail overcrowding.
To put the issue on the ballot would take a four-fifths vote by the supervisors, and to pass the sales tax, a supermajority of two-thirds of the countywide vote would be needed, a tall task by any standard. Not only would all the supervisors need to be supportive, but essentially all law enforcement and governmental jurisdictions and community organizations would need to be backers of the idea, as well.
The Grand Jury, which is no stranger to talking about the need for a North County facility, this time expanded its report to discuss the need to implement alternatives to incarceration, as recommended by a Blue Ribbon Commission Brown formed in 2008 to look at the issue. Just more than a decade ago, county voters turned down a one-quarter cent sales tax to help fund a new jail, which at the time would’ve cost an estimated $53 million. Now, a new jail will cost roughly $80 million. Also forcing the issue is state Assembly Bill 900, which would pay for nearly three-fourths of the new facility, as long as a reentry facility to help dent recidivism rates was also part of the program.