Jailhouse review begins after reports of crowding

Corrections officials have hired an outside consultant to review conditions in the packed men’s and women’s jails following two critical reports published this summer on overcrowding and a lack of rehabilitation programs.

The result of the $130,000 study, expected within six months, will be a blueprint for what a new Women’s Correctional Center would require. A similar report was compiled prior to constructing the county’s new juvenile hall, set to open next month.

Included in the report will be an assessment of whether to construct a men’s medium-security, overflow jail and the possibility of using alternative sentencing programs, such as electronic monitoring, to reduce crowding, according to Undersheriff Greg Monks.

“The Needs Assessment is the first step towards the ultimate goal of remodeling or replacing the current outmoded Maple Street correctional facilities, in particular the Women’s Correctional Center,” Horsley wrote in a report to county supervisors.

Both the state Department of Corrections and the county civil grand jury issued reports in July criticizing jail overcrowding and a lack of rehabilitation programs at county facilities.

After receiving a response to the grand jury report Wednesday that noted consultant DMJM H&N has been hired to complete the study, grand jury foreman Ted Glasgow commended Horsley for acting quickly.

“The sheriff is between a rock and a hard place,” Glasgow said. “These things take money, which the county doesn’t have right now.”

Funds for new jail construction are likely to come from bonds issued by the county, officials said.

Rather than focus on building bigger jails to house more criminals, Supervisor Adrienne Tissier, who sits on the county Criminal Justice Commission, said expanded rehabilitation programs are needed.

“I’m not a big believer in building jails for the sake of building jails,” Tissier said. “We need programs to make sure people get the help they need.”

The current women’s facility, which was built 26 years ago, is rated for 84 inmates but commonly houses 125, officials said. Maguire Correctional Facility, the men’s jail, is recommended for an average of 688 inmates but housed 970 Wednesday morning, officials said.

“Since the early ‘90s, we’ve lost about 200 beds when facilities were closed for budgetary reasons,” Monks said, citing the closure of the North County Jail, the sheriff’s Honor Camp in La Honda and the work furlough building on Maple Street.

ecarpenter@examiner.com

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