21 Aug 2014
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Relocation of County Jail Back on the Agenda

The ongoing controversy over the location of a new county jail goes on a little longer.

Relocation of County Jail Back on the Agenda Relocation of County Jail Back on the Agenda Relocation of County Jail Back on the Agenda Relocation of County Jail Back on the Agenda Relocation of County Jail Back on the Agenda Relocation of County Jail Back on the Agenda

 

The relocation of Napa County Department of Corrections from its present site on Coombs Street, adjacent to the criminal courthouse, is a hot topic for Napans and government alike.

On Tuesday, the Napa County Board of Supervisors agreed to look into moving the present jail site to a different location in Napa County, approving by unanimous vote a staff investigation of a new location outside of city limits.

A report summarizing three options for expanding the jail capacity of Napa County, created by CGL Companies for the Napa County Exective's Office, was presented to the Board. The 34 page document is attached to this article as a PDF.

The new facility envisioned is a 366 bed facility, capable of expanding to 526 beds, according to Napa County Department of Corrections Director Lenard Vare.

Currently the jail has a bed capacity of 264, he said.

“The plan is to move the jail within a 10 to 15 mile radius from where it is now. At this time we have no specific sites,” said Vare.

“It’s still in the works as to which sites we will be considering,” he said.

Vare said the time frame from choosing a site and building a location could be from three to five years.

“This type of proposal doesn’t happen over night. There is the planning, architect plans, permits and state regulations to go through,” he said.

Vare said the new site would target a larger piece of land in order that more facilities could be built to engage more inmate programs.

“We want room to have out patient programs, educational and rehab services.”

Vare is also in favor of building honor farms — a facility to house very low risk offenders, who would be kept at the facility, but able to attend programs that teach a skill, education, and pursue employment.

Napa County District Attorney Gary Lieberstein supports a new location away from downtown.

“I have been advocating this (moving the jail) for years on different levels. I believe we need a downtown facility to keep inmates awaiting pre-trial and other court proceedings,” he said. “We have to have programs for people who are in custody so they come out better than when they went in.”

Although local county officials and law enforcement have their opinions, the public also has their views.

“I really want to see it moved out of downtown. It’s too small to accommodate future inmates, and we need to do something now while we can,” said Edward Neely of Napa.

“I don’t think a jail facility in the middle of downtown is very conducive to our tourism, which is Napa’s bread and butter.”

Harry Tedmonde, also of Napa, disagrees.

“The jail should be some place that is easily accessible to everyone who needs it,” he said. “Some people may not be able to drive to the jail to see their family or anything else they need to do,” he said.

“It’s just a jail. It doesn’t look like an prison camp. It’s close, it’s accessible — leave well enough alone.”

Napa County Chief Probation Officer Mary Butler is concerned that the probation department will have the space at a new jail to provide officers and their clients with the services they need.

“We need to have office space to be able to work with our clients and probation officers,” Butler said.

Napa County Chief Probation Officer interim Ron Abernathy believes the cost of construction of a new jail will be offset by reduction in staffing costs.

“Operating two jails (downtown and another facility) could cost two and half times of the actual construction cost of a new jail,” he said.

Abernathy favors a single story jail. “It eliminates having to take inmates from floor to floor, and cuts down on the amount of security needed,” he said.

“If the jail is moved from downtown to a more rural location, it will allow more space for the county to build a horizontal building rather than a vertical one,” he said. “It makes more sense to me.”

What do you think? Add your suggestions and intelligent arguments in the Comments section below.

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