Thursday, August 9, 2012

(Napa Co) County and grand jury mostly in sync on jail operations

by PETER JENSEN - Napa Valley Register

When the grand jury turns its critical eye on local government, a torrent of barbed comments often flows.

Not so this year when the Napa County grand jury examined the county jail and the challenges of accommodating inmates now being diverted from state prisons.

In June, the grand jury praised the jail and Juvenile Hall for being well-run facilities.

On Tuesday, the Board of Supervisors accepted the grand jury’s favorable report and agreed to follow some key recommendations.

• Report annually on how alternatives to incarceration are being implemented so as to not jeopardize public safety. The county agreed to produce an annual public report.

• Conduct public forums to get feedback about the design and location of a proposed new jail. Supervisors agreed.

The state’s realignment initiative, undertaken in 2011, shifts some inmates from state prisons to county jails to reduce prison overcrowding.

To avoid overcrowding from this influx of state inmates, the Napa County jail has placed more emphasis on alternative programs, including pre-trial release and expanded electronic home detention. Some people arrested for driving offenses will no longer go to jail.

In June, the Napa County grand jury issued a report on the initiative’s likely local impacts and praised the county for being well prepared to handle realignment. Local criminal justice agencies were already collaborating on how to implement jail alternative programs prior to the Realignment Act’s passage in 2011.

Napa County has taken a wait-and-see approach before spending money to create more programs. The county wants to assess realignment’s impacts before allocating funds to address them.

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