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Thursday, August 28, 2008

County Proposes Site Locations for Reentry Facility

In a release yesterday afternoon, Yolo County announced that at a September 9 meeting, the Yolo County Board of Supervisors will consider three potential ites for a secure community reentry facility.

The potential sites include an industrial/commercial park east of the community of Madison (County Road 90 and State Route 16), a proposed industrial/commercial park southeast of the Esparto community (County Road 86a and State Route 16) and a site at the Yolo County Airport in the West Plainfield area (County Road 95).

According to the release:
"On March 18, Yolo County submitted a proposal to the state for funding for expansion of the county’s existing jail which included agreeing to assist the state in siting a reentry facility. Included in the proposal was the offer of a site located next to the jail facility, however this location was rejected as it was deemed by the state to be too small. The county was notified by the Corrections Standards Authority on May 15 that it had received a conditional award of $30 million for jail expansion pending the siting of a reentry facility in Yolo County. Since then, the county has been working with the California Department of Corrections & Rehabilitation to identify additional potential sites by the state’s deadline of August 15 (which has now been extended to September 16). Using criteria set forth by the state, county staff identified more than 100 parcels throughout the county that could meet the criteria for the reentry facility.

Initially, a number of locations were identified in the northern portion of the county, primarily along County Roads 14 and 85, south of the Dunnigan community. After additional on-site reviews, the state reconsidered the feasibility of these locations and indicated their preference for other sites better suited for the state’s needs. The sites being considered on September 9 appear to meet the state’s criteria and have already been identified for industrial/commercial development. These sites require considerable additional analysis and review before the state makes its final preferred selection.

Inmates in state prison are sent back into the community in which they lived prior to incarceration with $200 and a bus ticket. They are released with little to no job training, substance abuse treatment or any other skills or tools that might prevent new crimes and a quick return to prison. Reentry facilities can provide the critical tools to stop that revolving door. These tools include: job training, life and job-seeking skills, and medical, mental health and addiction treatment prior to release. Secure reentry facilities are key to breaking the cycle of crime and repeating criminal activity in California. Once fully integrated into the corrections system, these programs are expected to increase success on parole, increase public safety by reducing the incidence of new crimes by these individuals, and reduce overcrowding in state prisons. Reentry facilities throughout the state will be built and operated by the state."
While the issue has barely been a blip on the radar for people in Davis, it has created a firestorm up in the Dunnigan and Zamora area where the county has focused its energy.

Supervisor Matt Rexroad at one point recommended to the city of Woodland that they take on the project, however, they did not follow through on his recommendations.

Under the provisions of AB 900, cities like Woodland, Davis, Winters, or West Sacramento have veto power over proposed locations for reentry facilities. That has made rural and unincorporated locations like Dunnigan and Zamora, on the crossroad of I-5 and I-580 inviting and vulnerable targets.

Last week, Supervisor Rexroad suggested that the residents of Davis should step up on some of these projects.
"Most of you folks that read this are from Davis. Some of you are questioning why this project should not be located in Woodland. That is a fair question.

Another fair question is when the people of Davis are going to step up to the plate to provide land use that facilitates social services?"
He continued:
"I hear many of you claiming that you desire social services to be provided -- just not in Davis. That part is left out. Somewhere else in Yolo County would be fine.

The largest piece of industrial zoned property in the unincorporated part of Yolo County is Covell Village. How about that location?

The re-entry facility is something that we are going to work through over the coming weeks and even years.

My question for you is -- what land is Davis going to set aside for some of these things?


It seems funny to me that for all the social programs that the people that read this blog are likely to advocate for -- the use of land in your precious city never seems to be part of the message."
However, the issue has also been one of controversy in his own family. Supervisor Rexroad's father, himself a resident of the Dunnigan and Zamora area, has been outspoken in his opposition to the project.

On August 19, 2008 Jack Rexroad, the father of the Supervisor, wrote a letter to the Davis Enterprise.

In it, he argues that the reentry facility should be placed in an urban area
"because this is where the infrastructure is and where the parolees originated from and where they presumably will have families, lodging and other connections and gravitate to on release. In Yolo County they come primarily from Woodland, Davis and West Sacramento."
He continues:
"If none of these sites of origin will accept responsibility for their citizens, the whole concept of "re-entry" should be dropped. Transferring this unwanted "child" to a rural setting is tantamount to shirking responsibility and abandoning a pet animal in the country. We in the rural areas do not want what you produced and now don't want to deal with."
He concludes suggesting:
"Make no mistake; siting this prison in a rural area will not insulate Woodland, Davis or West Sacramento from the undesirable effects of a future penal colony. After all, where will the prisoner's families and friends live — in a tent city around the prison? My guess is in the cities where almost everyone else lives.

Do you think it's worth the risk? Tell your county supervisors."
From my perspective however, the unfortunate fact of the matter is that the unincorporated areas simply do not have the municipal protections that are afforded cities. However, from the standpoint of fiscal need and receiving $30 million of $42 million it will require to expand the Yolo County Jail--an expansion that will occur regardless. And from the standpoint of the project being a worthwhile endeavor even without the fiscal strings attached, this is a project that we must undertake as a county.

Where that project goes, I think is a secondary point. On that point, I can sympathize with the rural citizens who will have very little say over where such a project goes. On the other hand, from a practical standpoint, there is very little evidence that such a project would harm housing values. In fact, it might even augment them by putting good paying jobs in the area. Moreover, there hardly seems to be a safety issue either.

So while I can sympathize with the rural residents, I hardly think the issue is worth the alarm it is causing. From details of the project, it seems that the plan is for the design to be consistent with an urban industrial land use setting.

Here is the thing that gets me about Zamora and Dunnigan, they have pushed the Board of Supervisors to allow for the expansion of their "city" to within 20 years becoming around a city of a population of 25,000. They have no problem with such expansion of housing. But they do not want to bring in 300 jobs? They do not want to bring in something that would be an anchor for their community as it grows?

To me, these objections, the empowerment issue notwithstanding, really amount to NIMBYISM. They have no problem with development, with growth, with wholesale changes to their community, but they do not want a prison reentry facility in their backyard.

This does not dismiss legitimate issues that may arise here, but at the end of the day, it looks like they are probably going to be stuck with it. Hopefully at some point Jack Rexroad will forgive his son and the people of Dunnigan realize that the real impact will be the construction of 12,000 new housing units.

---Doug Paul Davis reporting