San Mateo Supervisors Poised to Push $150 Million Jail Plan Forward

Residents Question Drain on Strapped County Budget

For Immediate Release—May 7, 2012

Press Contact: Isaac Ontiveros

Californians United for a Responsible Budget

Ph. 510.444.0484

What:  San Mateo County Board of Supervisors Meeting

When:  May 8, 2012, 9am

Where: 400 County Center, Redwood City, CA  

Redwood City— On Tuesday, San Mateo’s Board of Supervisors will hear a proposal from Sheriff Greg Munks to grant an initial $20 million in construction funding for a $150 million jail plan.  Residents from around the county have voiced strong opposition to the plan, citing the county’s budget crisis and a need to reduce the current jail population.

Tuesday’s Board of Supervisors decision would push forward the construction of a new jail facility at a cost of $145 to $160 million for construction and an additional $30 million each year to operate, in addition to the Sheriff’s Office current budget of $17 million.  In a January op-ed in The Daily Journal, Tom Huening, San Mateo County Controller, wrote of the plan: “My job as controller is about county finance and, based upon our living off reserves for the last four years, I say we cannot afford a new jail. The $150 million to $200 million in potential lease finance (not voter approved bonds) is troubling, but the ongoing additional $30 million per year for operations is the budget buster.”

The ACLU, which has worked with counties throughout the state to track and implement best practices for public safety realignment, wrote a letter to the Board of Supervisors explaining that San Mateo county’s decrepit Women’s Correctional Center could be closed without building a new jail by reducing the pre-trial jail population, expanding the use of alternatives to incarceration, and diverting people convicted of low-level offenses. The ACLU noted realignment “presents a valuable opportunity to implement creative alternatives to incarceration in San Mateo County…to best take advantage of the tremendous opportunity presented by AB109, San Mateo County should not waste scarce resources on incarceration when more effective and affordable alternatives exist.”

A recent report by the Center on Juvenile and Criminal Justice (CJCJ), Jail Needs Assessment for San Mateo County: A preliminary analysis, found that crime has been steadily declining in the county since 1980. After analyzing San Mateo’s jail population, the report concludes, “CJCJ recommends 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.”

As the CJCJ report found, 59% of San Mateo County’s adult arrests were related to drugs and alcohol. Long time San Mateo resident and community organizer Manuel La Fontaine comments, “I’d like to see San Mateo take a lead in California by offering more alternative sentencing to people who have problems with substance use. Rather than spend $30 million every year on a new jail, San Mateo should prioritize adding resources to community-based programs and institutions. If the Board goes forward with a new jail, it will be failing its residents, and push the county into further crisis.”

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