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Friday, September 19, 2008

Across the State Uncertainty Clouds Future for Re-entry Facilities

Budget Lacks Money and State Lacks Credibility in Their Promises

While the people of Madison mount a fight against locating the re-entry facility in their community, it seems more and more that they are not alone in that fight. Across the state, counties and communities are realizing that they have given up more than they bargained for.

Thanks to an anonymous tip, the Vanguard has discovered that the funding for the re-entry facility that was approved this week, may not exist. There are also additional problems that appear to exist with the system.

According to the Stockton Record on September 18, 2008, the state's budget if it passes (and it now appears it will) does not have money to fund AB 900.
"Missing from the budget compromise reached this week in Sacramento was legislation needed to fund landmark prison reform designed to relieve overcrowding in state prisons and local lockups, state prison and local law enforcement officials said."
This has left San Joaquin County in a bigger lurch than it possibly will Yolo County.
"The reform legislation includes $1.2 billion for local jail expansion, and San Joaquin County is slated to receive $80 million of that money to expand its overstuffed County Jail."
"Language to "clean up" AB900 is necessary to pay for jail expansions and re-entry facilities, according to the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation. State officials said the cleanup language is needed before California can issue bonds funding AB900.

And if the fix doesn't pass with the budget, it could be at least three months before lawmakers can pass a law to make the necessary changes, law enforcement officials said.

That's three more months that could see construction costs rise and three more months San Joaquin County will have to deal with increased crime rates caused by a jail so full that criminals who should be locked up are on the streets, San Joaquin County Sheriff-Coroner Steve Moore said.

"It's disappointing that this wasn't taken care of in the first round," Moore said.

In a Wednesday conference call, representatives from the governor's office assured law enforcement officials from across the state that fixing the law was a top priority.

"It's very difficult for me to share the same confidence," Calaveras County Sheriff Dennis Downum said. Calaveras County was picked to receive $10 million for its own overcrowding issues.

Concern about not having a funding mechanism in place has other county sheriffs unsure about their own projects, said Jim Denney, executive director of the California State Sheriffs' Association. "It's making it very rough for the local jurisdictions to proceed."
San Joaquin County is not the only county alarmed.

The Monterey Herald reports a similar problem in Monterey County:
"After months of working to find potential sites for a state prison inmate re-entry facility in exchange for $80 million in funding for an expansion of the county jail, county officials found out the money may not be available after all.

In a bombshell announcement to the Board of Supervisors on Tuesday, Sheriff Mike Kanalakis said sources in Sacramento told him the Legislature's newly approved state budget would likely mean the demise of AB 900 funding that would have helped pay for the jail upgrade. The quest for the jail expansion money was the primary reason county leaders promised state prison officials a re-entry facility site in Monterey County.

Under the terms of the state budget compromise that was passed early Tuesday, AB 900 is "for all intents and purposes dead," Kanalakis said. "We're not sure where this leaves us."

Supervisors decided to go ahead with their original plan to ask state prison officials for a six-month extension to identify a site for the re-entry facility in rural Monterey County in case the state budget doesn't pass and the funding remains available. "
Here's perhaps a key point:
"Kanalakis' announcement left supervisors expressing relief they hadn't committed to a site in Monterey County for the re-entry facility, noting unsuccessful efforts to secure promises from the state linked to the site.

Last week, supervisors backed out of a plan to offer the state a specific site, voting to remove all proposed sites in Salinas from consideration and declaring their intention to find a site in the unincorporated part of the county.

They agreed to require the state to provide a series of promises before the county would commit to any site, including that the jail expansion money would be available, that the facility would never be converted to another use, and that the state would provide re-entry program funding.

Supervisor Lou Calcagno said he was always concerned that the state couldn't live up to its end of the bargain. "
Seems we haven't done any of that in Yolo County. Also, why are we only getting $30 million when Monterrey County is getting $80?

So what happened in Monterey County?
"The state has dropped plans to build a prison re-entry facility in Monterey County after local officials failed to meet Thursday's deadline to designate a specific site for the 500-bed lockup.

The California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation's decision could cost Monterey County $80 million in state funds that were earmarked to expand the overcrowded county jail.

"They took us off the list," county Supervisor Fernando Armenta said, minutes after a meeting with the CDCR board of directors. "It is very disappointing and frustrating."
Armenta, Sheriff Mike Kanalakis and several other officials traveled to Berkeley for Thursday's meeting of the prison board, where they requested the six month extension.

The county decided it needed more time after the Board of Supervisors last week ruled out building the facility anywhere within the city of Salinas.

Since only Salinas locations had been considered for several months, the county wanted more time to choose an appropriate location in its unincorporated areas. "
A similar problem occurred in Orange County this week, this time their Sheriff's Department dropped the bid.
"The Orange County Sheriff's Department dropped its bid Thursday to receive $100 million in state funds for expanding the James A. Musick jail because of a dispute over ownership of the facility at which a state inmate re-entry program would be housed.

In a letter to the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation, the state agency overseeing the bid and award process, Orange County Sheriff Sandra Hutchens cited a requirement that the state own and operate the facility "something that will not work in our community."
This is the crux of the issue:
"That facility would potentially be a state prison and I do not support a state prison in the heart of Orange County," Campbell said. "The sheriff negotiated on a bunch of alternative ways to make sure it could never change, but they wouldn't agree to that."

Ryan Burris, a spokesman for the Sheriff's Department, said the loss of the bid means the county must find other ways to relieve the overcrowding in the county's jails. According to the sheriff's department, there are 1,256 beds at Musick, located on the outskirts of Lake Forest and Irvine. The city of Orange has an agreement with the county that Lacy hold no more than 2,986 inmates.

"We still know that we need to expand the jail facilities to meet demand," Burris said. "They're going to have to look at all of that to figure out the best way to do so."

The original proposal for the inmate re-entry program called for it to be located at Theo Lacy in Orange. In May the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation rejected that plan after city officials protested the move because the re-entry program entailed paroling 292 state inmates into the streets of the city.

Orange Mayor Carolyn Cavecche said she also protested the move because it would have violated an existing agreement with the county not to change the conditions of the jail without city approval.
The more one reads into this issue, the more it seems like the county has made a deal with, shall we say the devil? Other counties are foregoing far larger grants for their jails than Yolo County is. Perhaps the county can look at other ways to finance their jail expansion. I think a lot of people would be amenable to that in lieu of building the re-entry facility. The more I read on this issue, the less it seems to be a good idea.

---Doug Paul Davis reporting