South City edgy about plan to house inmates

When South San Francisco Mayor Pro Tem Karyl Matsumoto discovered county jail officials wanted to house 40 female prisoners in her city, she said she decided to see for herself what it would mean for the surrounding neighborhood.

Matsumoto drove straight to the current women’s jail in Redwood City and parked her car among those visiting their incarcerated friends and loved ones.

“I sat in my car and I watched the flow, because I wanted to better understand,” she said. She saw people idling about, mostly in their cars, for visiting hours to begin. A sign informed parolees and recently released inmates their entrance was barred.

When Matsumoto drove back to South San Francisco, she said, she grew worried about loitering, crime and the impact on homeowners.

The county proposal would relocate as many as 40 nonviolent women into an intensive,gender-specific rehabilitation program in the North County Correctional Facility in the city’s court and probation complex, located at 1050 Mission Road.

The facility, which is owned by the county, would be a temporary measure, county officials said. It will only be operating for five to six years until a new women’s facility could be built, officials said. A 2006 grand jury called the current jail “a crowded disgrace.”

While the sheriff and supervisors are pinning their hopes — both to rehabilitate prisoners and to ease overcrowding — on the project, it may be a tougher sell in South San Francisco.

Matsumoto said she also feels city officials and residents were denied their voice in the matter.

Not a single community meeting was held before supervisors told sheriff’s officials last month to pursue exploring the project, she said. But supervisors point out they are not even close to approving the program, nor its home in South San Francisco.

“Nobody has approved, nor would we, the re-opening of that facility without community input,” said Supervisor Jerry Hill.

Matsumoto said that while she supports the goals of the program, she is fearful that state and county budget woes will delay the building of Redwood City women’s jail and South San Francisco will be stuck with a growing population of prisoners.

Supervisor Mark Church said the fear was unfounded.

“Unlike the state, we keep our promises,” he said. “If we tell a local community this is a temporary facility, we mean just that,” he said.

The proposed site sits in a residential neighborhood of both single-family homes and subsidized housing for the disabled.

Sheriff Greg Munks will discuss the matter at the South San Francisco City Council meeting on March 12.

tbarak@examiner.com

THE OVERCROWDING ISSUE

Wednesday’s inmate count

» Women: 123

» Women’s jail’s maximum capacity: 84

» Men: 915

» Men’s jail’s maximum capacity: 688

Proposed women’s facility

» Location: 1050 Mission Road

» Length of program operation: Five to six years

» Estimated renovation costs: $609,380

» Ongoing costs after renovation: $2.18 million

» Women housed: Up to 40 nonviolent offenders sentenced to 30 days to a year in jail

» Program description: Intensive, gender-specific therapy to rehabilitate female prisoners

Source: San Mateo County Sheriff’s Office

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