By Leon Worden/SCVNEWS.com
Sheriff Lee Baca will ask the Board of Supervisors on Tuesday to approve a revised jail facilities plan that will add a wing for female inmates to the Pitchess Detention Center in Castaic and replace the 50-year-old downtown Men’s Central Jail building.
At a total estimated cost of $1.4 billion, the plan is designed to solve the overcrowding problems addressed by the federal courts, enhance inmate supervision and cut ongoing operational costs.
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A report states at build-out, the new women’s detention facility in Castaic would house 1,156 inmates and would include a 26-bed medical clinic.
It would provide “a medium- to low-security environment for female inmates in a village-style compound which maximizes rehabilitative, educational and vocational opportunities and should ultimately reduce recidivism and long-term costs.”
Women are currently housed in the 1,122-bed Century Regional Detention Center, which would change to a men’s jail once the women’s facility opens in Castaic.
Then, the “deficient and deteriorating” Men’s Central Jail would be replaced with a “podular design … that enhances inmate security while reducing annual staffing costs by approximately $23.7 million in the first full year by improving inmate visibility, integrating dayroom-program and outside recreation space within each individual module, drastically curtailing the need for inmate movement, and providing the sheriff with greater flexibility in aligning housing.”
In total, the plan would increase the county jail system’s capacity by 393 beds. “Most significantly,” the report states, the realigned facilities would free up 4,054 beds for high-security male inmates.
The $1.4 billion price tag will be paid as follows: $144.3 million from the county’s 2011-12 capital projects budget, $100 million from the state, and the remaining $1.165 billion through the sale of long-term municipal tax-exempt bonds.
When the supervisors authorized the original jail facilities plan in 2006, it was envisioned that the Sybil Brand Institute could be sufficiently upgraded to accommodate more female inmates than turned out to be the case.
The 2006 settlement of a lawsuit known as the Rutheford case called for improvements to Men’s Central Jail to address problems of overcrowding, inadequate recreational opportunities for inmates, insufficient inmate supervision and the deteriorating physical condition of the facility.
Baca subsequently determined that the obsolete configuration of the run-down building made it impractical to repair. Even if made ship-shape, its inherently inefficient design still would require deputies to escort inmates through corridors and up and down elevators and escalators to get from dayrooms to recreation, visitation and counseling areas, medical services and court lines.
“This movement of inmates occurs multiple times per day and increases the sheriff’s difficulty in providing inmate classification separation,” the report states.
The female housing complex in Castaic would be built in one phase and completed in early 2016. Then the first phase of demolition of the Men’s Central Jail would occur, with the new towers opening in late 2017.
Baca’s office said the project does not require full environmental review because they “will not result in direct or indirect physical changes to the environment.”