Santa Barbara County Uncuffed from Total Jail Renovation

It was early July, and Supervisor Das Williams was sitting down in his business office and heading by his mail. As he read a letter from a point out criminal justice company, he allow out a large “Woohoo!” “I assume I startled some of my workers,” he remembered.

The Board of Condition and Neighborhood Corrections (BSCC) experienced informed county leaders that, even with repeated statements to the contrary from their sheriff and staff, Santa Barbara was not lawfully obligated to renovate and insert rated beds to its Primary Jail as a situation of receiving $80 million in condition funding to build the new North County Jail. 

The renovation work was expected to expense tens of hundreds of thousands of bucks, county funds Williams has always reported would be far better used on options to incarceration. Elements of the growing old campus do have to have to be overhauled, he conceded, but not the full 819-bed facility, in particular with the 376-mattress northern branch scheduled to occur online this spring. Since the pandemic, Williams mentioned, Santa Barbara dropped its regular jail populace from additional than 900 to less than 600 without the need of currently being overrun by criminal offense.

“This letter,” Williams said this week, “represents an monumental possibility to glance at what wings it will make perception to up grade, and what wings to near forever, to help you save us an tremendous total of taxpayer pounds that could in any other case go not only to diversion and rehabilitation systems but also to standard general public security companies like investigations and patrols.”

It was as a short while ago as a June 1 spending plan listening to that Sheriff Invoice Brown told the supervisors Santa Barbara experienced “promised” the BSCC it would insert additional jail beds to satisfy the needs of the state grant. At the similar listening to, County Counsel Mike Ghizzoni, explained he “absolutely agreed” with the sheriff’s interpretation of the policies. The supervisors then proceeded with their deliberations with that identical knowledge.

But in immediate contradiction to the two Brown and Ghizzoni, the BSCC letter explained there are no ― and ended up no ― “statutory or programmatic needs that counties maximize area capacity” in order to get funding. “I really do not consider he was performing dishonestly,” claimed Williams, who regularly butts heads with Brown on issues of public protection funding, “but he perpetuated a poor simple fact that bought us bottlenecked into the erroneous possibilities.”

For his aspect, Brown explained to the Impartial the BSCC altered the grant situations amongst when the county gained the $80 million in 2012 and these days. “That was then, and this is now,” he mentioned. “They have new employees and new administration. Points alter.” The letter would make no mention of a plan modify, nevertheless, and explains including beds was never “a binding assure.”

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Brown insisted in the course of the finances negotiations, during which his department’s once-a-year allocation was enhanced by approximately $7 million, that Santa Barbara County wants at the very least 1,000 jail beds to keep an acceptable stage of public safety. Individuals beds shouldn’t often be filled, he defined, but it’s significant to maintain the extra room in the function of arrest “surges” or other sudden influxes. Jails, like hospitals, have an perfect running capacity, he mentioned, and the field expectations for lockups is 85 percent.

In latest a long time, Brown has championed the jail’s anti-recidivism applications with noteworthy achievement. He’s also supported alternate signifies of aiding individuals in the throes of drug addiction or psychological health and fitness crises. “Nobody desires far more than I do to have possibilities to jail for mentally sick and drug addicted folks,” he stated. “But you also need jail space for people folks when they dedicate significant crimes.… You can have a carrot, but you also require jail as the adhere.”

Among the individuals most opposed to the renovation has been Jeff Chambliss, a private defense lawyer and president of the Santa Barbara Defenders association. To build a new jail at a whole ― and way over spending budget ― charge of $120 million, on top rated of expending hundreds of thousands a lot more to up grade the existing 1, would not only run counter to evolving philosophies of criminal justice but also go squarely towards local general public impression, he argued. In 2000 and 2010, Chambliss noted, Santa Barbara County voters were requested to maximize the sales tax to shell out for the new northern branch. In both conditions, they soundly turned down the concept.

The BSCC discrepancy was not the first time the Sheriff’s Business office cited incorrect facts to justify an overhaul of the principal campus, Chambliss claimed. Last year, he said, the division tried to use a legal settlement with Incapacity Legal rights California about ADA compliance at the facility to go the challenge ahead. It was only when Chambliss and his group intervened, explaining to the supervisors in personal meetings that the settlement did not, in actuality, mandate a renovation, that the proposal was tabled. “They ended up pleasantly shocked,” he mentioned. “They’d gotten another lousy point.”

“I feel the board is not acquiring excellent details from their team, and the sheriff is searching for justifications to fund this renovation with out putting it to a general public vote,” continued Chambliss, suggesting a ballot measure is the only accountable way to figure out if jail additions and enhancements are how county people really want to commit their income. “I think there are a ton of folks out there who would be against this,” he predicted, “or at minimum want additional transparency in the procedure.”

The supervisors are envisioned to revisit the challenge later on this summertime. 

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