The County Should Focus On Alternatives to Incarceration
Monterey County has approved an $88.9 million plan to add 576 beds to its county jail, the Monterey Herald reports. It is the largest public work project in the county’s recent history, according to Monterey County’s Public Works Assistant Director Paul Greenway.
Opponents include the American Civil Liberties Union and community activists who characterize the expansion as an investment in more incarceration over programs aimed at rehabilitation and crime prevention.
The county should focus on alternatives to incarceration such as reduced bail, said Jane Parker, a member of the county Board of Supervisors. She noted an earlier plan would have added only 288 jail beds. She favored a smaller, less expensive jail to generate savings to spend on proven crime-prevention programs.
Parker also noted that most county inmates were awaiting trial.
Greenway said that 576 more beds were needed to meet the population overflow as well the population growth projected over the next 20 years.
Sheriff’s Office officials agreed with Greenway about the need for expansion. The expansion will increase the county’s ability to implement classes and programs for inmates in the future, they say, whereas currently “classroom space is practically nonexistent.”
It would be good to know what the new additions are going to look like in terms of rehabilitative program space, said Supervisor Fernando Armenta.
Armenta’s question was partially answered on Jan. 7, when county supervisors approved an agreement with Soledad’s Correctional Training Facility (CTF). This agreement creates a transitional program for inmates who are within two months of a release date.
Now, “instead of winding up in the streets with nothing and no idea of how to get services,” explained correctional counselor Jeff Frye, inmates will “go through transitional training beforehand.” Historically, these county inmates “fell off the grid” when the county was less involved, but now they will have programs to make them more successful, the Monterey Herald reported.
Frye said, “It helps us to reduce recidivism rates.”
The program will teach 60 inmates at a time during five-week courses. Inmates will learn under the administration of the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation to fill out job applications, write resumes, interview successfully and understand their finances.