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San Joaquin County supervisors to consider expanding jail

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Posted: Wednesday, May 22, 2013 12:00 am

San Joaquin County officials will wait at least two weeks before discussing whether to approve a plan to expand the county jail or spike the plan altogether, despite receiving an $80 million state grant.

The county Board of Supervisors has the option of expanding the jail to 1,280 beds, which would reduce the number of inmates the Sheriff’s Office releases early in order to limit overcrowding. But the proposal would cost the cash-strapped county an additional $70 million per year.

Board chairman Ken Vogel decided to remove the item from Tuesday’s agenda because supervisors were already discussing several lengthy topics.

“Because of the projected length of (Tuesday’s) meetings, I felt it was in the best interest of the board and staff to have the time warranted for the jail discussion,” Vogel said.

When the Board resumes talks on June 4, they’ll have three options to consider:

  • The jail could receive funding through a countywide sales or property tax measure, which would be voted on during the November 2014 election. When the Joint City/County Criminal Justice Task Force previously evaluated this option, they determined it had little chance of receiving voter approval. But the board could consider reconvening the task force to determine if the level of support has changed. However, the county can only increase taxes a half-cent — which would generate approximately $44 million — before hitting the statutory cap.
  • The board could decide the expansion isn’t possible and decline the state’s $80 million construction grant, which was awarded in 2008. It would require the county to scrap all jail design plans and terminate existing contracts, but allocate the remaining $17 million to the General Fund. This option wouldn’t help reduce the number of low-level inmates being released early, but it could fund a replacement morgue or other high-priority capital needs.
  • Lastly, the county could continue constructing the 1,280-bed jail if the state approves moving inmates from the current jail to a new jail. Inmates wouldn’t move back until the county finds enough money to fully fund the new operational costs of the expanded jail. San Joaquin County Sheriff Steve Moore would review this idea with state authorities before a decision is made.

Contact reporter Kristopher Anderson at krisa@lodinews.com.

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