Yolo and Sacramento counties seek jail funds

Sacramento and Yolo counties are vying for a piece of $500 million in state jail construction funds with proposals that dramatically differ from past plans by emphasizing medical treatment and rehabilitation instead of adding cells.

Both counties have aging jails that were built to handle short-term incarcerations. But since 2011, counties have become responsible for inmates with sentences longer than a year, and sometimes much longer.

As a large county, Sacramento is eligible for an award up to $80 million, while smaller Yolo County can receive up to $40 million. Sacramento and Yolo supervisors agreed last week to apply for maximum funding and provide 10 percent in matching funds.

Sacramento County wants to add medical beds and its first psychiatric beds to its Rio Cosumnes Correctional Center south of Elk Grove. The proposal also calls for new classroom space for vocational programs such as a metal shop and counseling services.

The jail provides a number of vocational programs but doesn’t have the space to serve all the inmates in need, said Sacramento County Undersheriff James Lewis.

At the Monroe Detention Center in Woodland, Yolo County has a similar lack of space for rehabilitation services, according to county staff. In general, the Yolo County plan would pursue additions similar to those proposed by Sacramento County, with facilities for medical and psychiatric care and training programs.

Last week, the most recent jail proposal received strong support from Yolo County supervisors.

“The plan seems consistent with where corrections is going at the county level,” Supervisor Jim Provenza said.

The state rejected Sacramento County’s $100 million bid in a previous round of jail construction funds, deeming Sacramento’s need for jail space less pressing than in three other large counties. It approved Yolo’s funding request, but county leaders ultimately declined to accept the money after residents expressed strong opposition to expanding the jail.

Other counties in the region, Placer and El Dorado, are not applying for the latest round of jail funding.

In approving Senate Bill 1022 last year, lawmakers said funds would go to counties that prioritize medical treatment and training for inmates. That criterion marked a shift for the Legislature, which in 2007 passed a $7 billion prison and jail construction bill that focused less on inmate rehabilitation at the county level.

The need for jail improvements increased two years ago when the state started sending lower-level offenders to county jails instead of state prison. The change was the result of prison crowding and state budget woes.

SB 1022 tries to address some of the medical issues that have dogged the state prison system – medical and psychiatric care – by favoring county proposals that call for improvements in those areas.

Lewis said Sacramento County’s expansion proposal reflects the needs of those new inmates. Sacramento County has received criticism for not spending enough money on rehabilitation for offenders since passage of the law. But county supervisors, who unanimously supported the new jail plan last week, have indicated they will place more emphasis on rehabilitation and treatment.

“It speaks to our level of commitment of embracing the principles of AB 109,” he said, referring to the state law that gave counties responsibility for lower-level offenders.

Counties have until Oct. 24 to submit funding proposals to the Board of State and Community Corrections. An executive committee will rate the proposals in December before submitting recommendations to the full board the following month. The 13-member board is largely made up of law enforcement officials, most of whom are appointed by the governor.