San Mateo County jails push budget boundaries

Inmates from San Mateo County’s overcrowded men’s and women’s jails could soon be housed temporarily in San Bruno, Alameda or La Honda while leaders plan a long-term solution to the crisis.

Both jails have suffered overcrowding for years, earning jeers from the San Mateo County Civil Grand Jury in 2006.

Under the county’s $1.3 billion 2007-08 budget, adopted Tuesday, $354,214 will be set aside to plan a replacement for the women’s jail, as well as other options to relieve ongoing overcrowding at Maguire Correctional Facility, said Sheriff Greg Munks.

However, short-term relief could cost millions.

Munks is weighing a number of options, such as hiring the San Francisco Sheriff’s Department to open part of its jail in San Bruno or the Alameda County Sheriff’s Department to take in up to 240 prisoners — at a cost of up to $8 million per year.

A medium-security vacant facility in La Honda that could house up to 150 inmates at a cost of nearly $5 million per year may also be reopened, Munks said.

“It’s clear we need to do something soon,” said Supervisor Mark Church, who urged immediate exploration of housing inmates in the San Bruno facility.

San Francisco has not yet offered an estimate on how much it would cost to house San Mateo County inmates in the San Bruno jail, which has 240 beds.

The San Mateo County men’s facility, rated for 688 inmates, had 1,040 Tuesday; the women’s, rated for 84 inmates, had 150, Munks said.

Rich Gordon discouraged the use of the La Honda facility, despite its lower cost, because of its remote location — and because Munks predicted it could take up to six months to restore electricity and repair wiring at the site.

“It would not be our long-term goal to keep [La Honda] open, and I also favor the contract solution in the short-term,” Munks said.

Munks will also explore the possibility of housing 40 to 50 inmates from the women’s jail in a minimum-security drug-treatment program, but has not yet identified a location. He expects to return to the Board of Supervisors with a cost-benefit analysis of all options later this year.

In addition to funds for jail planning, the county’s 2007-08 budget adds funding for a new behavioral health and recovery services division, $1 million for its contract with the Union of Physicians and Dentists, $1 million to the Health Plan of San Mateo, $1.2 million for debts related to the construction of the new youth services center and $1.1 million in added wages for in-home support-services providers.

bwinegarner@examiner.com

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