Contractor promising additional 96 beds for Stanislaus County jail expansion

kcarlson@modbee.comJune 16, 2014 

A general contractor says it can work an additional 96 jail beds into Stanislaus County’s Public Safety Center expansion, moving the county a step closer to closing beds at the antiquated downtown Modesto jail.

Staff members recommend that supervisors approve a $64.9 million contract for Hensel Phelps of San Jose to build the incarceration center with two 240-bed maximum-security units and a 72-bed medical and mental-health wing. County officials thought they might have to settle for two units with 384 jail beds total. Hensel Phelps assured it can deliver 480 beds within the budget.

Supervisors could approve the deal Tuesday evening and also award a $17.7 million contract for Hensel Phelps to build an intake and transportation facility near the Public Safety Center on Hackett Road in west Ceres. It’s part of a complex to include a reporting center for probationers and a 288-bed rehabilitation facility, all of which will gird the county for statewide public safety realignment and address a historic shortage of jail space.

Hensel Phelps was one of three finalists for building the maximum-security units and support facilities. The county’s project team held confidential meetings with Hensel Phelps, Balfour Beatty and McCarthy Construction and rated their proposals based on pricing, design alternatives and scheduling.

The expansion will give the Sheriff’s Department higher-security cells for the category of inmates assigned to the county under realignment. They include adults convicted of nonviolent felonies who were previously sent to state prison. Those inmates are a higher risk than other people sentenced to local jail time, a sheriff’s official said.

Sheriff’s Capt. Bill Duncan said the concrete maximum-security cells each will have beds for two inmates and sliding doors and are designed for central control to have direct supervision of inmates. “The inmates are hand-searched when they are going in and out of cells for activities or access to the yard,” Duncan said. “The inmates are cuffed when they are escorted to any activity outside their cells. There are two staff (members) for each inmate.”

Right now, the county’s jail units are classified as medium or minimum security. Duncan said many of the inmates coming into the jail system suffer from physical ailments or mental health issues. The new center will have a medical unit not often found in county jails in California.

To pay for design and construction of the project, the county has an $80 million state grant and $9.5 million in local funds. Public facility fees will pay for construction of the support facilities for intake, release and transportation of prisoners.

Patty Hill Thomas, chief operating officer for the county, said the county needs to design and build the 288-bed re-entry facility to provide enough new jail beds to stop housing prisoners in the dilapidated jail in downtown Modesto. The state awarded $40 million to the county for that project to create facilities for rehabilitation programs.

Initial construction work at the Hackett Road facility is planned in the fall. The center with the maximum-security units and health care wing is supposed to open in 2017. The units will likely open in phases because of the costs of staffing the facility. Construction of the re-entry center could start in 2015. After inmates are removed from the downtown jail, the building still will be used for inmates with court dates, Hill Thomas said.

The Board of Supervisors will meet at 6:30 p.m. at Tenth Street Place, 1010 10th St., in Modesto.

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

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