A 192-bed addition to the Stanislaus County jail system is not going to fix the problem of inmate crowding, particularly because it's replacing an Honor Farm that at one time housed 350.
However, sheriff's officials said Unit Two, as it's called, will be a big step in an effort to make the system work more smoothly. The unit, under construction at the Hackett Road sheriff's campus, is scheduled to open in September.
"It will make us more efficient," sheriff's Sgt. Anthony Bejaran said Tuesday. "No longer will we have to transport people to the west end of the county."
He referred to the Honor Farm, an aging, barracks-based facility in Grayson that opened in 1967 and was designed to house inmate work crews that would be dispatched to projects on county roads. In recent years, the Honor Farm has suffered from havoc that includes fires, contraband and the occasional escape because it houses higher-level inmates than its intended purpose, officials say.
Two barracks burned in 2010, reducing the capacity to 86; the money for the Unit Two came from an insurance settlement from that fire. Once the new unit opens, the Honor Farm will close.
Unit Two is nearly a mirror image of Unit One, which houses men and women classified as minimum security. Plans for Unit Two call for it to house only men, as the Honor Farm does.
Fourteen-foot fences surround the buildings; inmates are allowed outside for recreation, but not until corrections officers do a check of the fence line for any items a friend might have tossed onto the grounds. Officers at the Honor Farm conduct similar checks, but the area there is so large, it's harder to manage efficiently.
"Bringing more bodies back to one campus should help utilize our staffing a lot better than we do now with having three facilities," Bejaran said. "The only transportation will be to court or the downtown jail."
Laundry, cooking and commissary services are housed at the Hackett Road campus, so there will be less driving for that staff, as well.
Separately, the county won an $80 million grant last year to help fund another jail expansion, this one to house 384 maximum-security inmates in a facility just east of the Public Safety Center, also at the Hackett complex. It's designed to help with the increase of inmates at the local level after the state passed a law aimed at reducing its prison population by sending inmates convicted of nonviolent, nonsexual and nonserious crimes in county jails.
That project is in the planning phases, with completion scheduled in 2016. When it opens, all adult inmates will be booked at the Hackett Road complex; presently, men are booked at the downtown Modesto jail near the courthouse and women at the Public Safety Center.
All of the units will operate independently, officials said, although there may be some supervised movement among them as inmates use various programs, such as health services.
Breaking News Editor Patty Guerra can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or (209) 578-2343. Follow her on Twitter, @pattyguerra.