Santa Barbara County Closes Santa Maria Jail as Construction Continues

SANTA MARIA, Calif. — Santa Barbara County Sheriff Bill Brown decided to close the existing Santa Maria Jail on July 17 in an effort to meet budget cuts required by the county.

The county had to cut $35.4 million from its 2017-18 fiscal year budget, according to Lompoc Record, and could face an about $20 million deficit for next fiscal year. Sheriff Brown was just one of several department heads instructed to cut 5 percent from general fund contributions to department budgets, which totaled about $5.6 million in cuts for the sheriff’s office.

In early June, Sheriff Brown requested a one-time funding of $1 million to operate the Santa Maria Jail until the Northern Branch Jail currently being built in Santa Maria opens; however, that request was denied.

The sheriff ultimately had to choose between making cuts at the Santa Maria facility or the 847-bed main jail in Goleta, which already faces an overcrowding issue. As the smallest of Santa Barbara County’s three jails, the logical choice was to cut the Santa Maria Jail, which is mainly used as a booking station, reported Lompoc Record.

The decision to close the facility has no affect on the $111 million construction of the county’s Northern Branch Jail, which is on track to be completed in October 2018 and operational by spring 2019. The 376-bed facility will house both male and female inmates and will provide the county with everything from inmate housing to medical and mental health treatment to program spaces — all of which will help ease the county’s jail overcrowding issue.

A key part of the new facility’s plan includes space for new programs, vocational training and substance abuse treatment for inmates. Thirty-two of the 376 beds will be also used for medical and mental health beds in a specialized housing unit. It will also feature an outpatient medical clinic and multipurpose rooms to provide classroom space.

Costa Mesa, Calif.-based SJ Amoroso Construction Inc. and locally based Spiess Construction Co. Inc. are constructing the Northern Branch facility. Kitchell, with offices in Santa Barbara, is serving as the construction manager, while Atlanta-based Rosser International Inc. is serving as the architect.