San Mateo Proposes Jail Population Reduction Measures

For Immediate Release—February 9, 2012

Residents Question Why A New Costly Jail Was Approved

Press Contact: Isaac Ontiveros

Californians United for a Responsible Budget

Ph. 510. 517.6612

What:  San Mateo Community Corrections Partnership Meeting

When:  February 9, 2012, 2pm

Where:  455 County Center Room 101 Redwood City, CA

Redwood City— Today, San Mateo County’s Community Corrections Partnership will hear another round of public comment on its Local Implementation Plan (LIP), which aims to “reduce crime and re-incarceration among the AB 109 population” of realigned prisoners.  While San Mateo residents are applauding the goals of strengthening re-entry practices, funding effective services, and offering treatment, housing, education, and job support to former prisoners, they are asking why Sheriff Greg Munks’s approved plan to build a new expensive jail seems to have planned for outright failure in reducing the jail population.

A recently released report by the Center on Juvenile and Criminal Justice (CJCJ), Jail Needs Assessment for San Mateo County: A preliminary analysis, found that crime has been steadily declining in the county since 1980. After analyzing San Mateo’s jail population, the report concludes, “CJCJ recommends deferring construction of new jail space until alternative pretrial release, expedited court processing and transfer, expanded probation supervision, reduced probation revocation, and expanded community treatment alternatives have been fully explored.”

The Sheriff’s plan is to construct a new jail facility that will cost $145 to $160 million for construction and $27 million for annual operations, in addition to the Sheriff’s Office current budget of $17 million.  In a recent op-ed in The Daily Journal, Tom Huening, San Mateo County Controller, wrote of the plan: “My job as controller is about county finance and, based upon our living off reserves for the last four years, I say we cannot afford a new jail. The $150 million to $200 million in potential lease finance (not voter approved bonds) is troubling, but the ongoing additional $30 million per year for operations is the budget buster.”

San Mateo residents are also questioning whether the Local Implementation Plan goes far enough toward best practices.  As the CJCJ report found, 59% of San Mateo County’s adult arrests were related to drugs and alcohol. Long time San Mateo resident and community organizer Manuel La Fontaine comments, “I’d like to see San Mateo take a lead in California by offering more alternative sentencing to people who have problems with substance use. Rather than spend $30 million every year on a new jail, San Mateo should prioritize adding resources to community-based programs and institutions. If the County goes forward with a new jail, it will be failing its residents and the intentions of this plan.”

San Mateo County received a “fail” grade on a Realignment Report Card issued by Californians United for a Responsible Budget (CURB), a statewide coalition of over 40 member organizations, due to its plan to build a new jail.  The Local Implementation Plan will be finalized and voted on March 8th, and brought before the Board of Supervisors to approve on April 10th.

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