Counties Vie for Share of Realignment Funds
California’s plan to reduce its overcrowded prisons by shifting the responsibility for low-level offenders from the state to county governments has created competition for the more than $500 million allocated for the plan.
Orange and Sonoma Counties plan to build new jails.
Orange County is asking for $80 million, out of $240 million reserved for larger counties, to expand one of its jails.
Sonoma is a smaller county. It has already received $36 million, and is asking for an additional $24 million to build a new 160-bed detention and probation facility.
The new facility would combine minimum-security housing and halfway house-type lodging for offenders transitioning out of jail under alternative sentencing methods or for those sentenced to probation. It would be the first of its kind in California, according to the Press Democrat.
The plan would result in a hefty, ongoing financial commitment for the county. The jail expansion comes as national crime rates are on a historic downward trend. The Press Democrat reports that the county’s jail system has yet to hit its maximum capacity as 1,156 out of 1,476 available beds were occupied on Oct.13.
Some problems regarding the Orange County plan are coming from Irvine city officials.
According to the Voice of Orange County, city officials are “troubled” by the county’s expansion plan, noting a pending lawsuit about a nearby housing development. To ease concerns, Orange County officials say the expansion would be limited to 384 beds. These officials expect to learn in January whether Orange County will receive the grant.
Orange County law enforcement officials say the new jail facility is another tool to reduce crime, ease the burden on courts, and help avoid the prospect of jail overcrowding.
“I worry,” said Chairman Shawn Nelson. “The state doesn’t love us as much as I wish they did. It seems like they’re looking for reasons to not favor us, and I don’t want to give them one.”
The construction cost is about $200,000 per inmate, reports the Voice of Orange County.