A big step in putting an end to the decades-long jail overcrowding problem was made earlier this week, when the Correctional Standards Authority board recommended that Santa Barbara County receive $56.3 million in jail bond funds from the state of California, more than two-thirds of the total cost of the estimated $76 million it will take to build the new jail. County officials are planning on a 300 bed facility in the North County. Currently, the jail located in South county off the 101’s El Sueno exit, is rated to accommodate 818 prisoners but usually has closer to 1,000.
The county was ranked fifth among medium and large counties in terms of how much preference it got, based on a points rating system. San Bernardino County topped the list. Should the recommendations be approved, the total of $750 million will be used to build 8,286 jail beds in 12 different county jails. The proposals were made by an executive steering committee, and the board will vote to make grant awards final at their September 18 meeting.
Santa Barbara County was one of 24 to apply for jail bond funding through AB 900, but one of only 12 to be recommended to receive it. “I am extremely pleased that the state recognized our crucial need for a new jail and our continuing commitment to the successful re-entry of offenders,” said Sheriff Bill Brown in a statement. “We still have lots of work to do before the new jail is built, but this is a major step forward. I want to thank my staff and the other members of our multi-disciplinary team for their outstanding work on developing Santa Barbara County’s proposal.”
Of those 24, 19 had plans for a secure community reentry facility. The reentry facility, which is also included in Santa Barbara’s proposal, would be used to help inmates transition back into society in or near to their place of last legal residence. Roughly 1,000 inmates return to Santa Barbara County each year. The reentry facility will have to be validated by the Department of Corrections Division of Facilities Planning, Construction and Management. “The competitive process in place for awarding scarce resources for jail construction rewards counties that have stepped up to help enact real corrections reform and improve public safety,” James Tilton, CSA Board Chair and Secretary of the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation, said in a statement. “The Board’s actions today bring California one step closer toward building Secure Community Reentry Facilities and relieving jail and prison overcrowding across the state, furthering of the goals of AB 900.”