The San Diego Association of Governments () released a report on Tuesday outlining the current capacity and future needs of San Diego County's detention facilities, and Santee's tops the list as most overcrowded.
SANDAG’s Criminal Justice Division released the report analyzing the region’s capacity to absorb offenders when the State of California shifts the responsibility for housing and supervising thousands of convicts to county governments starting in October, due to , the Public Safety Realignment Act of 2011.
The report comes at a time when crime is at a 30-year recorded low. But, the advancing age of many of the county's detention facilities, as well as the "expected need for additional jail bed space in the coming years, has resulted in the planned construction and expansion of the facilities," according to the report.
The report, which can be found attached in the media box, says that annually, about 4,000 offenders that would have been in the state system will now be cared for at seven detention sites across the county. The Sheriff's Department estimates that its local jails will reach capacity within 8 months- 1,000 to 2,000 more jail beds will be needed by 2013, according to the report.
The state prison inmates that would be transferred are behind bars for non-violent, non-sexual and non-serious offenses.
The report describes the in detail, the first renovation of this type in the county due to the 145 percent overcrowding situation, the highest in the county:
"First, the 1960s-era will be replaced with a new women’s facility that will include 34 buildings across 45 acres. The 1,216-bed facility will be built on existing and adjacent Las Colinas properties and as new facilities are constructed, the old buildings will be demolished. The new complex will incorporate a number of design innovations including clusters of smaller-scale housing units that are grouped according to detention levels that support the varying security classifications of the inmate population. The layout will combine generous use of open space and landscaping amenities to create a campus-like environment.
"The development will include dining, medical, administrative and security facilities; buildings for inmate industries; a rehabilitation and learning resource center; and a new entrance with expanded parking for staff and visitors. The project will consist of two phases with Phase I being completed in the spring of 2014 (832 beds) and Phase II completed by the summer of 2015."
The San Diego County Board of Supervisors voted unanimously on Tuesday to accept the plan to implement changes prompted by AB 109.
Full costs to the county for the transfers and expansions has yet to be determined, but the county expects to receive $25.1 million from the state to fund the shift the first year, and upwards of $65 million the next year, officials have said.
"We know we can provide better public safety services than the state,
but we cannot allow them to pass the buck without also passing along the dollars,'' said board Chairman .
A five-point plan to accommodate the shift was put forward by Chief Probation Officer Mack Jenkins. Ideas include reducing the number of low-risk offenders sitting in jail awaiting trial by dropping bail amounts or using more home detention techniques, more use and training with alternative sentencing, and other tactics to free up space in detention facilities.
These different treatments could be given to inmates while in custody instead of "simply warehousing them as now occurs in state prison,'' Jenkins said.
City News Service contributed to this report.