Friday, May 26, 2017
[Santa Barbara] County short in funds for both jails, grand jury report says
Troubles with housing all of the inmates in Santa Barbara County jails won’t go away even after the construction of the North County Jail, according to a county grand jury report released on May 18.
While the Santa Barbara County Board of Supervisors implemented a plan to fund the northern jail, the report found, there was no “concrete” plan to fund the millions of dollars’ worth of repairs for the South County jail.
The main impetus for the new jail, according to the report, was to alleviate the overcrowding in the main jail facility at 4436 Calle Real, which has been at 120 percent capacity on a consistent basis for the last several years. The jail’s been under court order since 1988 to reduce capacity to 819, but the population frequently exceeds 1,100.
The new North County Jail—which broke ground in October 2016 and is slated for completion in 2019 at a cost of at least $111 million—is rated at a capacity of only 376 beds.
According to interviews with officials in the county’s General Services Department, the jurors learned that the main jail is in “failure mode” that falls out of compliance with current seismic standards, includes a “dilapidated” medium security facility (also called the “Honor Farm”), and needs repairs to the roof and more than 60-year-old plumbing and sewer systems.
Marx-Okuba, an engineering consulting firm hired by the General Services Department in 2015, estimated that more than $15 million would be needed in the next 10 years to bring the main jail into a “safe and up-to-date operational order,” the report stated.
In the report, the grand jury recommended that the Santa Barbara County Sheriff’s Office, which controls the jails, develop a prioritized list of repairs in the next six months and that the Board of Supervisors find alternative funding for repairs.
Responding to the report, Kelly Hoover, the public information officer for the Sheriff’s Office, said her office shares the grand jury’s concerns.
“The Sheriff’s Office is reviewing the grand jury’s recommendations and is actively engaged with General Services on developing a plan for renovating portions of the main jail campus,” Hoover said in an emailed statement to the Sun. “We will issue a formal response to the grand jury within the specified time frame.”
May 24, 2017
Santa Maria Sun
By David Minsky