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A recent ACLU report found that that 24 of the 25 largest California counties plan on using realigned state funding to pay for dramatic expansions of jail beds. CJCJ’s Brian Heller de Leon reviewed the report in his blog, Adult realignment and the county jail building boom.

The ACLU report notes, Counties that have chosen a path of jail expansion — as many of the Big 25 county realignment plans indicate they have — are trying to solve the wrong problem. They seek to absorb the realigned population without changing their local approaches to public safety.” 

San Mateo County is an example of this trend. On Tuesday, May 8th, the county’s Board of Supervisors will hear testimony concerning the Sheriff’s proposal to grant an initial $20 million in construction funding for a $150 million jail plan. But is a new jail really necessary? 

CJCJ’s December 2011 publication, Jail Needs Assessment for San Mateo County: A preliminary analysis, commissioned by the San Mateo County Controller’s Office, conducted a preliminary analysis of the county’s historic criminal justice trends and found that there may be alternatives to jail expansion that could adequately serve the new criminal justice population the county is responsible for, without compromising public safety. Recommendations included: 

~ Reduce the pretrial jail population through utilizing pretrial services and other pretrial release options available under AB 109;~ Cross-county collaboration and leasing agreements with neighboring counties that have available jail space. 

CJCJ concluded with a recommendation deferring construction of new jail space until alternative pretrial release, expedited court processing and transfer, expanded probation supervision, reduced probation revocation, and expanded community treatment alternatives have been fully explored.” The success of realignment will be demonstrated through the counties’ willingness to embrace innovation through local solutions to incarceration.