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New Redwood City Jail Plans Move Forward

Posted on: 10/06/2011

For San Mateo County Sheriff Greg Munks Realignment might not be only a headache but a godsend. For the last five years, the sheriff has been pushing for a new jail to alleviate the overcrowding problems that–like other California jails–has plagued Maguire and Elmwood Correctional Facilities. Maguire is rated for 688 beds but for the last decade has operated with an average population of more than 1000 inmates. In spite of having purchased the land for the new jail, plans have been stalled. Realignment seems to be a game changer.

Just a few days ago county supervisors voted 4-1 in favor of moving ahead with one of the jail plans proposed by the sheriff. One of three options before the board, each with different costs and amenities, the plan approved was Option B. The original plan for a 768 bed facility was modified to have between 488 and 552 beds. One floor will be left open and unused as a backup plan for future overcrowding.

The supervisors also voted to allow the Sheriff to submit an initial statement of interest on behalf of San Mateo County. The statement would allow the Sheriff to apply for state grant money to help fund the more than hundred million in expected costs.

The lone opponent to the move forward was Supervisor Dave Pine. Pine opposes the large spending on jail facilities. He argued for an increase in spending on preventative measures instead.

“No matter what jail we build, if we don’t do some things differently we’re going to fill it up,” Pine said.

New jail advocates disagree, arguing that law enforcement doesn’t arrest people just to fill up beds. In fact, while nothing is yet set in stone, the new jail plans to reduce recidivism through innovative programs. Cognitive therapy, barless, glass-paneled cells, and in-depth vocational training are all part of the new plans. It is part of a shift in thinking on how to reduce repeat offenses.

“We are talking about achieving outcomes that have never been achieved anywhere,” the Sheriff said.

With a large percentage of inmates, more than half the women especially, unemployed at the time of their arrest, career training is a special focus.

Funding remains an issue so it remains to be seen how many innovative programs can be implemented in the new facility. The new jail may have to rely heavily on community involvement and area non-profits for help.

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