The proposed North County Jail could expand to include additional beds and space for reentry programs if the county is awarded approximately $38.9 million in state funds. The Board of Supervisors voted Tuesday to allow Sheriff Bill Brown to submit an application for the award — recipients will be announced in January — but stipulated that amendments need to be made to the jail contract’s language and that discussions still need to be had on how to finance the new facility.
The proposed jail, to be located near Santa Maria and projected to be up and running by 2018, could increase its number of beds with the money from SB 1022, which will put bond sales toward jails’ increased bed space, treatment programs, and reentry services meant to help reduce recidivism rates. With the $38.9 million, Brown said, he would add a 52,208-square-foot wing (that would serve as a multipurpose room for beds and treatment services) as well as an additional 228 beds to the proposed 376 beds; there would be 128 beds for inmates in treatment and two 50-bed units for those in transitional housing. The additional room, Brown said, would not “just add space to warehouse people” but would “turn lives around.”
In making his case to apply for the award, Brown argued that the $80 million already set aside for construction is now insufficient because of the County Jail’s increased inmate population brought on by the new California law — AB 109 — that shifted responsibility for certain types of inmates from the state to the counties. Since its passage in 2011, Brown said, the jail’s population has risen by 11 percent, with half the inmates there as a result of AB 109. The county would have to match 10 percent of the award, and supervisors reluctantly said $3.9 million in strategic reserves could cover that cost until another funding source is found. Receiving the award would up the expected annual operating costs for both jails — around $17 million — by $310,700 a year, an amount that the board said it’s unsure how to pay for. Brown said additional AB 109 funding might help make up the difference.