Stanislaus jail expansion on supervisor list

kcarlson@modbee.comAugust 25, 2013 

  • ABOUT THE REPORTER
    alternate textKen Carlson
    Title: Staff writer
    Coverage areas: County government, health and medicine, air quality, the environment and public pension systems
    Bio: Ken Carlson has worked 13 years for The Bee, covering local government agencies in Stanislaus and San Joaquin counties. His in-depth reporting has focused on access to health care and public employee pensions.
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— Stanislaus County supervisors will consider approving designs for a major expansion of jail facilities at the Public Safety Center on Hackett Road, including the possibility for 96 more jail beds than previously planned.

An alternative plan for the $89.5 million jail expansion project calls for larger maximum security units with a total of 480 beds, instead of the 384 beds in the original plan. That would increase the jail bed count for the expansion from 456 to 552.

The expansion — about 90 percent funded by a state construction grant — also calls for 72 beds for inmates with medical problems and mental health needs, and a separate facility for monitoring people on probation and for rehabilitation and treatment programs.

The county also proposes to spend $24 million in public facility fees on an intake, release and transportation hub at the Hackett Road center that would replace those facilities at the downtown Modesto jail.

The 96 additional jail beds could lead to closing some beds at the dilapidated jail in downtown Modesto, a county staff member said. "It won't close all of the beds at the downtown jail, but it would be a good start," said Patty Hill Thomas, assistant county executive officer.

This morning, supervisors could give the OK to send the designs and request for more jail beds to the state for approval.

The county hopes to finish construction of the expanded jail facilities on Hackett Road in summer 2016. It was awarded an $80 million state grant for the project, and the county has designated $9.5 million in local funding.

Sheriff Adam Christianson said the reason for adding the jail beds is simply the local demand for incarceration facilities. "We don't have enough jail-bed space to meet the community demand for public safety," he said.

He said a shortage of jail space existed before realignment, the 2011 state initiative that made counties responsible for lower-level criminal offenders. The state policy has made the shortage of jail cells even worse.

Christianson said he expects the state will give approval for the increased jail space. The alternative plan would include two 240-bed maximum security units.

"Our design leads the way in the state with respect to programming space and our medical and mental health units," Christianson said. "They are very excited about what we are doing here."

The state initiative to reduce crowding in prisons has put pressure on counties to build incarceration facilities for housing lower-level offenders.

Honor Farm replaced

The Sheriff's Department already operates a lockup with 726 beds for male or female inmates at the Hackett Road complex in south Modesto. It's also the site for a newly built 192-bed jail facility that replaces the Honor Farm near Grayson and will start housing inmates in September.

With the potential 552-bed expansion, the Hackett Road complex would have locked facilities for up to 1,470 inmates. The county has about 375 inmates in the three-story jail in downtown Modesto.

Hill Thomas said there has been progress in making safe and efficient use of maximum security areas for jails. Ultimately, the county will know if the additional beds can be built within the project budget when it receives construction bids from contractors, she said.

The Sheriff's Department is working on a plan for staffing the 552-bed lockup, which is a looming budget problem for the county. Christianson said the new jail cells could be opened in phases as funding is available for custodial deputies and other staff.

The Board of Supervisors meets at 9 a.m. today in the basement chamber of Tenth Street Place at 1010 10th St., Modesto.

Bee staff writer Ken Carlson can be reached at kcarlson@modbee.com or (209) 578-2321.

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