Wanted: Get Out of (North County) Jail Card

Current unfunded county liabilities include $828 million for retirements, $300 million for deferred maintenance, and $??? million for a proposed North County jail. The present South County jail is crowded only because it is stacked with 80 percent pretrial detainees. Twenty percent of this jail population is sentenced offenders. Experts point out that these populations include, disproportionately, minorities and poor, especially those with substance abuse, mental problems, and social/occupational challenges, none of which yield to wholesale warehousing.

Our South County jail has a 70 percent recidivism/rearrest rate now. Do we want to expand our jail capacity?

Voters in Santa Barbara County in the year 2000 defeated Measure U by 61 percent versus 39 percent —Measure U was to fund a new North County jail. Voters in this county in the year 2010 defeated Measure S, again by 61 percent versus 39 percent —Measure S was also to fund that same new North County jail.

So, after two decisive votes that rejected funding for the proposed jail, why are we presently bombarded with pronouncements that a resuscitated North County jail is about to appear? Does the will of the voters in this supposedly democratic county mean nothing to our supervisors?

In the U.S.A., one in every 32 individuals (3.2 percent) is enmeshed in our iffy justice system (probation, parole, incarceration). No other country comes even close. Across the U.S. today, jurisdictions at all levels are reducing — not expanding — sentences.

A letter to the editor in a local newspaper proposed that our cash-strapped county jettison what it cannot maintain. Good advice.


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