Sacramento County poised to receive $56 million for jail services

Sacramento County has tentatively been awarded $56.4 million for inmate rehabilitation and medical care to help treat inmates serving longer sentences in its jails.

A state panel recommended this week that Sacramento and 14 other counties receive a total of $500 million in construction funds intended to meet the state’s goals for realignment, a 2011 law that gives counties greater responsibility for lower-level inmates and parolees. The Board of State and Community Corrections will consider the awards for final approval Jan. 16.

Sacramento County plans to use its funding to expand programs at Rio Cosumnes Correctional Center. The jail has long offered vocational programs in food service, welding and other areas, but the need has gone up since realignment. The county also plans to add a new mental health and medical center, as realignment has led to longer-term sentences and greater medical needs.

The county currently can provide rehabilitative services to about half of its roughly 2,200 inmates because of space limitations, he said. Under the department’s planned expansion, it would be able to serve nearly all inmates, he said.

The recommended award is $23.6 million short of the $80 million requested by the county. Sheriff Scott Jones said Friday that he is still considering options to find additional money. He said it’s likely the Sheriff’s Department will have to scale back its proposal, as he doubts county supervisors will fund the difference.

“I’ve got a mixed reaction. I’m glad the state sees the value in our proposal to rehabilitate inmates,” Jones said. “I just wish they could have funded the full proposal.”

Sacramento County received a partial award because it finished fourth in the large county category, said Robert Oates, project manager for the Board of State and Community Corrections, which was created last year to help coordinate services for state inmates and parolees shifted to counties. The ratings panel recommended that the three other large counties finishing ahead of Sacramento – San Mateo, Orange and Fresno – receive their full grant requests, leaving only $56 million in that category.

Sacramento County did not conduct sufficient surveying work on the land intended for construction and did not meet certain environmental requirements, Oates said.

The only other area county to apply for state funds, Yolo, had its request denied. County officials had asked for $40 million to build a day reporting center for parolees and convert existing jail space into a medical and mental health facility, among other things.

The state panel determined that Yolo had failed to demonstrate that it could staff the new facilities or provide enough of its own money. The county also did not include a statement of support from its supervisors.

Statewide, the $500 million will fund construction of jail and parole facilities focused on education, mental health and medical care, job training and other services aimed at rehabilitating inmates and parolees. State lawmakers emphasized rehabilitation when they passed the realignment bill.

In an earlier jail construction grant program, the staffing requirement led some counties to reject state grants years after they were initially awarded. Oates said the board addressed that problem this time by getting county supervisors to commit to staffing when they applied.

Sacramento County supervisors agreed to the requirements earlier this year. In addition to the nearly $6 million construction match it will be expected to pay, the county expects minimal personnel costs because most of the programs scheduled for expansion are already staffed, Jones said.

The state board will likely want to know at its January meeting what Sacramento County would do with a partial award, although it is possible that the Legislature will make more money available, as it did with a similar bill to build youth rehabilitation programs, Oates said.

Jones said he is putting together a contingency plan but hopes the state can find additional money.