The Santa Barbara County Sheriff’s Office will soon be getting a $38.9 million grant it applied for in October, according to an announcement Thursday by the California Board of State and Community Corrections (BSCC). The Sheriff’s Office — which had to get the board of supervisors’ go-ahead to apply for the funding — had pushed for the money to build a new 52,208-square-foot, 228-bed wing onto the planned North County Jail that will be devoted to recidivism-reducing programs. The money comes from a state bill, SB 1022, that puts bond sales toward jails that implement such programs. The total pot of money was $500 million, with $160 million of that reserved for 14 counties, including Santa Barbara, that are classified as medium-sized.
The $38.9 million award for the new wing — to be called the Sheriff’s Transition and Reentry (STAR) Complex — will come in addition to the $80 million in state funds already allocated for the construction of the North County Jail, which is expected to be completed in 2018. Sheriff Bill Brown has said that the $80 million is no longer sufficient to cover additional costs brought by AB 109, the state law passed in 2011 that transferred the responsibility of certain inmates from the state to the counties. Since AB 109 began, Brown has said, the population of the Main Jail — located in South County, on Calle Real — has increased by 11 percent, with half of the inmates there because of AB 109. Certain housing units at the Main Jail will close when the new complex opens, but which ones haven’t been finalized, said Sheriff’s Office spokeswoman Kelly Hoover.
After the award was announced on Thursday, the Sheriff’s Office released a statement. “This is another huge step in constructing an appropriately sized jail in North County,” Brown said. “The new facility will help alleviate the added burden we are bearing as a result of a AB 109 Criminal Justice Realignment, which has shifted the responsibility to us for housing approximately 160 inmates who would have formerly been sentenced to state prison. The added award of almost $39 million will also result in a substantial infusion of additional dollars into the local economy.”
Chief Deputy Laz Salinas, who is in charge of the jail’s custody operations, also made a statement on the award. “Securing the additional funding is a huge accomplishment for not only the Santa Barbara County Sheriff’s Office but for our partners within the community and the citizens of Santa Barbara County,” he said. “The funding will allow us to help meet the needs of our inmate population and provide much needed programming designed to help reduce the rate of recidivism in our county.”
Hoover said that the office still has to receive official written notification from BSCC, as well as formal acceptance of the award from the supervisors. In authorizing the Sheriff’s Office to apply for the grant in October, the supervisors also agreed to the award’s stipulation that the county provide a 10 percent match. The board said at the time that until or unless a different funding source is determined, the county’s $3.9 million match will come out of its $29 million rainy-day fund.
Some supervisors took issue in October with the fact that the STAR Complex will increase the yearly operating costs for both the Main Jail and the 376-bed North County Jail by about $310,7000 a year. Hoover said that the Sheriff’s Office will look into perhaps using AB 109 money to help bridge that gap, but how the county will foot the annual bill for the total operating costs remains unclear.
Hoover added that the Sheriff’s Office is still in the process of open recruitment for custody deputies; open recruitment ends on January 30.