The Board of Supervisors this week approved a $748,000 contract with a Sacramento-based consulting firm to assess Riverside County's jail system and develop a plan that will identify what projects are viable and how best to allocate resources in the future.
Sacramento-based Carter Global Associates was selected by the county Economic Development Agency to draft the "Countywide Correctional Facilities Master Plan" in coordination with sheriff's and EDA officials.
Under the yearlong contract, which is being funded from monies reserved for court facilities expenses, CGA will conduct an "independent analysis regarding immediate and future jail bed needs."
The goal of the study is to draw up a "roadmap of jail needs for the next 10 years," according to EDA documents.
The consultants will collect data on county population growth, crime rates, ethnic and racial composition of the county over time, historical crime rates, arrest data, average number of jail bookings and related trends to spot "significant factors influencing crime and justice patterns," according to the agreement.
County officials said CGA will also look at alternatives to incarceration to determine what programs stand a chance of mitigating capacity constraints, and there will be an effort to assess the quality of the jail system's security, medical and mental health services, food services and maintenance operations.
The master plan concept evolved from a committee formed last June under the title IMPRISON -- "Incarcerate More Prisoners Responsibly in Satisfying Overwhelming Need."
A key finding in the committee's 97-page report: the need for an additional 10,000 inmate beds in the next 14 years to keep pace with demand and prevent the ongoing practice of releasing inmates before they've served their time or had their cases adjudicated.
In 2012 and 2013, the sheriff's department early-released just over 16,200 detainees.
According to the IMPRISON study, conditions have been exacerbated by Assembly Bill 109, also known as the Public Safety Realignment Act of 2011. Under the law, so-called "non-serious, non-violent" offenders convicted of felonies that do not stem from a sexual offense are to serve their sentences in local detention facilities.
AB 109 also made counties responsible for prosecuting and incarcerating probation and parole violators whose offenses do not fall into the "serious or violent" category.
The law additionally provided a "split-sentencing" option under which qualifying convicts can do half their time in local jail and the other half under so-called mandatory supervision. The issue has become a hotly debated one in the county district attorney's race, with D.A. Paul Zellerbach characterizing split-sentencing as a useful "tool," and challenger Mike Hestrin blasting it as another imposition on the county's limited correctional space.
The IMPRISON report recommended a fourth expansion of the Smith Correctional Facility in Banning and the possible expansions of the Robert Presley Jail in Riverside and the Southwest Detention Center in Murrieta. A project to expand the Indio jail from 353 to 1,626 inmate beds is underway.
CGA's master plan study will include workshops with "key stakeholders," though it wasn't clear whether the public would be invited to comment before the consultants' report is delivered to the board in the next fiscal year.
— City News Service.