Santa Clara County Moves Forward with Jail Plan

SAN JOSE, Calif. — The Santa Clara County Board of Supervisors voted unanimously last month to take steps toward the construction of a new jail in San Jose. They agreed to move forward with design work required in order to compete with other counties for part of the $500 million in jail funding from the state, which should be granted later this year.

Santa Clara County, like most counties in California, has seen a dramatic increase in inmate population due to the state’s realignment program, which moved lower-level felons to county jails to reduce overcrowding in state prisons. The county faces a growing number of inmates with various gang affiliations and health issues, and officials worry the existing jails are not suitable for their needs or security.

As such, the county’s biggest problem is that it lacks maximum-security beds. While overall number of inmates is below the county’s capacity of 5,356, the top security cells make up only 5 percent of the total. The county falls about 400 short of what is currently needed, a number that is expected to grow, according to San Jose Mercury News.

The recommendation to build a new jail came from a needs assessment conducted by MGT of America, a consultant with offices in Sacramento, Calif. Three years ago, a similar study concluded that the county’s facilities needed to be refurbished, but this newer assessment said a new building would best serve changing times. Main Jail South, built in the 1950s, would be demolished because it wouldn’t be able to fit current operations that include programs for inmates, Brad Sassatelli of MGT told San Jose Mercury News.

The proposed jail would be 10 stories tall, with 48 cells on each floor that could house two inmates each. It would be located just to the east of the existing jail facilities. The estimated cost ranges between $62 million and $72 million, and the county will be seeking state funding that would pay for about 90 percent of the construction costs.

State corrections officials said they expect to put out a request for proposals for funding in June, with decisions made by early November.