23 Aug 2014
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Locals Speak Out on Jail Location

Napa residents express their concerns about the location of the county’s only lockup.

Locals Speak Out on Jail Location

For years, Napa County has been wrestling with the recurrent problem of .

And things could soon get worse: A requiring local jails to keep prisoners sentenced for up to three years, rather than the traditional one year, is expected to bring an influx of additional prisoners to the .

One proposal is to build a new facility, away from downtown, big enough to house an expanded jail population.   

Napa Patch has asked several Napa residents for their thoughts on the prospect of .

“I think moving the jail to a new location is not a good move. It will cost a tremendous amount of money to do that,” said Steve Stills. “And what would they do with the existing jail?”

“No, no, no,” said Kathryn Miller. “Right now it’s convenient for the families of the people in jail.

“A lot of those people don’t have transportation, and they can walk to the jail,” Miller said. “It’s something I hope they think long and hard about before coming to a decision.”

George Lenson feels just the opposite: “I think it would be good to have the jail closer to the and not right smack in downtown where all the tourists can see it,” he said.

“Tourists, one of Napa County’s top sources of revenue, don’t like to see something negative like a jail right in the middle of downtown, especially so close to the new businesses along the river on Main Street,” Lenson said.

Maddie Smith would like to see the jail population decrease: “I don’t think building more jails to house more criminals is the answer. We need programs and to educate the public so they don’t take the wrong path, make poor choices and end up in the criminal justice system,” she said.

Lake Berryessa resident Julie Colbert is concerned about the cost of moving the jail.

“I guess in a perfect world we wouldn’t need jails. But of course, that’s not going to happen,” she said. “I imagine building a new jail at a different location would be extremely costly — money that could be put to use somewhere else where it is really needed, like finding jobs for the unemployed.”

Gary Lieberstein said in an e-mail, “I do not believe that a viable opinion is to move the jail entirely out of downtown, and I would not support such an option.”

Lieberstein said his objections are attorneys’ access to their clients and the need to transport the inmates to court and public safety issues in doing so.

“(Now) these concerns are non-existent,” he said: Currently, the jail is adjacent to the . Inmates scheduled to appear in court are transported from the jail to the courthouse via an underground tunnel connecting the two buildings; they are never out in public.

Instead of keeping all inmates in the county jail, Lieberstein advocates a minimum-security “honor farm” at a location other than downtown.

“These would be prisoners who are assessed at a low risk for violence and can be managed at a less secure setting than the downtown jail,” he wrote.

“Possible sites would include land near the sheriff’s department or on the campus.”

Lieberstein said, “Our ultimate goal must be the public first ... and to have persons sentenced to jail serve the term they were sentenced to serve.”

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