Santa Barbara’s proposed North County Jail — projected to be up and running by the first half of 2018 — is one step closer to getting the $38.9 million in funding it needs for an additional wing dedicated to recidivism-reducing programs. On Thursday, a state committee recommended that the county receive the grant; the final decision will be announced on January 16.
Santa Barbara County qualified for the grant under SB 1022, a state bill passed to provide money for jails to create space for custodial housing, reentry programs, and mental-health treatment. In October, Sheriff Bill Brown successfully made his case to the Board of Supervisors — who had to approve the application and agree to match the grant money by 10 percent — for why the Sheriff’s Office should move forward with the bid.
“Today’s news is huge for Santa Barbara County on several different levels,” Brown said in a statement released by the Sheriff’s Office on Thursday. “The additional $38.9 million in funding will be added to our previous $80 million award and will allow us to design and build a properly sized jail in our North County. It will be a model for safely housing criminal offenders, but also for delivering rehabilitative services that will change lives and ultimately reduce recidivism.”
If the Sheriff’s Office is awarded the $38.9 million in January, it will be used to build, as part of the new jail, a Sheriff’s Transition and Reentry (STAR) Complex, a 52-208-square-foot wing for an extra 228 inmates. The addition would feature one transitional housing unit for 64 inmates, one Sheriff’s Treatment Program unit for another 64 inmates, and two 50-bed housing areas for inmates in reentry programs. The opening of the STAR complex would mean the closing of certain housing areas in the Main Jail on Calle Real, as well as the shifting of staff to the new jail. The $38.9 million grant would come in addition to the $80 million already set aside for the construction of the main portion of the new jail. Brown has argued that the $80 million is no longer sufficient given the increased number of inmates because of AB 109, a law passed in 2011 that shifted responsibility for certain inmates from the state to the counties.
The supervisors in October agreed to provide the Sheriff’s Office with $3.9 million — taken from the strategic reserve — in matching funds if the county receives the grant. Adding the wing to the new jail will also, the Sheriff’s Office has said, increase the annual operating costs for both jails — approximately $17 million — by $310,700. Brown has said that the extra funding could possibly come from AB 109 money, and department spokesperson Kelly Hoover said Friday that other ways to close the gap will be explored.
SB 1022 has set aside $500 million in bond sales for qualified counties across the state. If it wins the funding, Santa Barbara County would receive close to $40 million out of a $160 million pot reserved for the state’s 14 designated medium-sized counties.