Riverside County Jail Construction Delayed

INDIO, Calif. — Construction on the 1,626-bed East County Detention Center (ECDC) in Indio is currently awaiting final approval from the Office of the California State Fire Marshal, which has had the jail plans since early last year. As such, the jail that Riverside County officials were hop-ing to have by the end of 2016 probably won’t be finished until the end of 2017 now, according to the Temecula Patch.

Only when the fire marshal’s office signs off on the 506,000-square-foot detention center, will the state Department of Finance release the $100 million promised to the county to cover a third of construction costs. The Temecula Patch reported that Economic Development Agency (EDA) officials contacted the fire marshal’s office to address concerns about the project, and a face-to-face meeting is scheduled for early February in Sacramento.

The $309 million project has been in the works since the first half of 2012, and space was already cleared last spring to build the facility. Locally based Hal Hays Construction Inc. managed preparation operations, and HOK, with offices in San Francisco, is serving as the architect on the project. As of now, a list of pre-qualified contractors has been approved; however, a ground-breaking date for the project has still not been set. According to EDA, the process of selecting a contractor to construct the ECDC will take about three months to complete.

The detention center will replace the existing 353-bed Indio Jail nearby. It will add 1,273 inmate beds to the county’s current inventory of 3,906 beds, which has been deemed inadequate due to California realignment. It will help ease overcrowding issues that have forced the Sheriff’s Department to grant early releases to thousands of inmates every year. In fact, the county is under a federal court order to reduce crowding.

The EDA documents state that the detention center will have an on-site health clinic, classrooms, recreation yards, a video visitation room, a full-service kitchen and a dedicated housing unit for inmates that require separation from other inmates. Each floor of the facility will have two housing units with 192 inmates per unit, reported The Press Enterprise. The units will have more of a pod design, compared to the traditional long rows of iron-bar cells. There will also will be a 72-bed medical unit and special housing for mentally ill inmates.

Inmate visits will be done through video conferencing, which means that friends and family will have no direct contact and instead talk with inmates from a separate location inside the jail. Classrooms for rehabilitative services are a major part of the new jail. One will be built next to the kitchen to teach inmates cooking skills.

Riverside County currently has 3,906 inmate beds at its five correctional facilities — all managed by the Sheriff’s Department Corrections Division — and is one of the largest jail operations throughout the country. A report released in September 2013 said that an additional 10,000 beds would be required over the next decade. Under AB 109, non-serious and non-violent offenders convicted of felonies that do not stem from a sex crime serve their sentences in local detention facilities, making it more difficult to manage the county’s inmate population.