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California to Decide on $500 Million Jail Construction

Meeting of the SB 1022 Executive Steering Committee

CJCJ

On December 4-5, 2013, representatives from 36 counties came to Sacramento and made their case to receive jail construction funding available through Assembly Bill (AB) 1022. With this legislation, California will allocate $500 million in revenue lease bonds for counties to construct adult criminal justice facilities. The 36 counties have submitted funding applications that total $1.3 billion.

California’s Board of State and Community Corrections (BSCC) has established an Executive Steering Committee (ESC) of law enforcement stakeholders who will rate applications based on a number of criteria. Indeed, the request for proposals, administered by the BSCC, notes that,

“Applicant counties are expected to judiciously consider programming needs to manage the offender population, and the range of alternatives to incarceration that may affect bed space needs, while employing the least restrictive options.”

The December 4-5 meetings were the last opportunity for counties to present their case as to why their jurisdiction should receive SB 1022 funds. As such, law enforcement representatives from across the state were in the audience, a common occurrence at BSCC meetings. Given the intent of SB 1022, applicants consistently referenced how they would use their prospective SB 1022 funds for programming and special needs housing, rather than simply expanding general bed space. Most were careful to place their plans within the fundamental framework of adult Realignment, citing how these funds would address the changing nature of individuals in local custody. Many intended to replace existing facilities that are dilapidated and inadequate to meet the basic health needs of the people in custody. Some expressed a newfound willingness to embrace programming, but lamented an absence of funding and physical space to implement the necessary reforms.

However, there were also many community advocates in attendance to voice their opposition to state financing of county jail expansion. Californians United for a Responsible Budget organized a large community presence, one not often found at BSCC meetings. Individuals expressed concern about the state’s overreliance on incarceration and advocated the need for community-based programs as alternatives to detention. Others highlighted the impact of unfair bail schedules, unnecessary expansion of bed space, and substantial costs that counties would face to operate these facilities. While replacing derelict facilities will improve the conditions of detention, many counties could adopt reforms to reduce their detention population without endangering public safety and build a smaller facility that is less costly to operate.

On January 16, 2014, the BSCC will announce which counties will receive SB 1022 funds. This is a unique construction fund that offers the opportunity to revise local detention practices, but also presents the possibility of unnecessary jail expansion. To ensure that counties use this funding as intended, community members, local stakeholders, and the BSCC should monitor implementation of the awarded proposals. Appropriate architectural design paired with extensive staff training and programmatic development will be essential for many of these county proposals to succeed. Community involvement in the development process will enable counties to provide a transparent and accountable local system that meets the needs of the communities it serves.

To learn more about the SB 1022 funds and county proposals visit the BSCC’s specific webpage.

Keywords: BSCC, California, law enforcement, legislation, state policy

Posted in Blog, Correctional Institutions

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