Monday, July 24, 2017

Napa [County] grand jury says Solano is answer to county’s jail needs

FAIRFIELD — The Napa County grand jury has recommended that rather than building a new and larger jail facility, the county should contract with Solano for inmate housing.
“(The) Grand Jury found that construction of additional new facilities . . . could be avoided because Napa County has the opportunity to enter into a cost effective regional jail partnership with Solano County, which the Jury recommends,” the grand jury report released June 19 states.
Lenard Vare, director of the Napa County Department of Corrections, said he could not comment on the grand jury report until the Board of Supervisors addresses it, but said there is no active discussion on what the county is going to do after the three current construction projects are completed.
One of those is a 60-bed remodel of the basement at Napa’s current jail, converting the area into two-inmate cells.
“The plan is . . . the approximately 40 inmates (who) are in Solano County will come back once the basement remodel is done,” Vare said.
In the meantime, Solano County officials are trying to figure out how to absorb that lost revenue – about $3,500 daily at the current inmate population.
“Yes, we are going to lose revenue, and we are making adjustments throughout our (operations),” said Capt. Denton Autry, custody commander for Solano County. He emphasized that the department will employ all cost-saving options before it reduces its staffing, and even if it comes to that, will simply not fill open positions before laying off anyone.
The county has more than 360 officers, so through retirement and other attrition, it is not uncommon to have vacancies to fill, Autry said.
Napa contracts on a sliding scale that equates to $88 per bed, per day for 40 or more inmates. The contract calls for payment of $128 per bed for one to 25 inmates and $108 per bed if the inmate count is between 26 and 39.
“We have the authority to contract up to 125 inmates, but Napa hovers around 40,” Autry said. That population is comprised of 30 men and 10 women, and the security levels range from minimum to maximum. Solano does not accept inmates with significant mental illness.
Autry added while Solano is open to housing inmates from other counties, the Sheriff’s Office is not marketing the bed space around the state as a revenue generator.
“We have a resource available to other counties and that’s jail beds,” Autry said. “We have a paper cap of 125 (inmates), but we could take more.”But we are not out shopping contracts.”
Solano also has an active contract with Sonoma, but currently does not have any inmates from that county.
In addition to the basement remodel, Napa also is building a 72-bed re-entry facility designed to help inmates transition back into society.
“That should be completed in the middle of 2018,” Vare said.
Napa County also is constructing a $28.4 million, 96-bed jail. It will include a 17-bed unit for inmates with mental illness. That should be finished by the 2021-22 fiscal year, Vare said.
The 72- and 96-bed projects come under the label of the first phase of the county’s jail needs. The next two phases, which the grand jury recommends against, would be for a $128 million, 304-bed facility.
“And at this point, we are just releasing options about what should do,” Vare said.
He is not convinced that renting beds in the Solano County jail is the most fiscally prudent option over time. He also noted that construction costs are not going to get any cheaper, so a decision on the new facility needs to be made sooner than later.
Calls seeking comment from a Napa County supervisor on the subject was instead responded to by a public information officer.
“Napa County does not comment on Grand Jury reports until the Board of Supervisors has reviewed the document and has had a chance to respond to it,” the email from Kristine Jourdan stated.
She said the board acknowledged receipt of the report on Tuesday, and directed staff to begin preparing responses.
Napa is one of two counties in the state in which the jail division does not come under the sheriff’s authority.
July 12, 2017
Fairfield Daily Republic
By Todd R. Hansen

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