Alternatives To Jail Expansion In Riverside County
Across the country, communities faced with the problem of crowded jails
and strained local finances have begun looking for ways to curb jail
population growth. These communities have sought to avoid the need for
larger facilities without compromising community safety, and many have
been successful in doing so by using a combination of system efficiency
measures and carefully considered alternative programs.
Riverside County Jail Population
Riverside County operates five correctional facilities: Blythe Jail, Indio
Jail, Robert Presley Detention Center, Smith Correctional Facility, and
the Southwest County Jail. Riverside is currently applying for $80 million
for a new 582 bed jail. The total number of available jail beds is 3,906.
The 2013/14 Budget was $179,029,238, that is $45,834 per incarcerated
person per year. From the Riverside County FY 13/14 Recommended Budget*
“Without one-time cash, many capital projects will be competing with bond
financing preserved for jail bed construction. Even then, ever-shrinking
department budgets must maintain a fine balance between providing services
and assuming new debt.” From the Riverside County FY 13/14 Recommended
“The Criminal Justice Realignment shifts the responsibility of parolee
supervision from state to local probation departments. As part of the
realignment effort, Field Services provides supervision for state inmates
released at the completion of their terms if the most recent crime
committed is non-violent, non-serious and does not require the individual
to register as a sex offender. Other realignment efforts include the
implementation of evidence-based supervision strategies, treatment
programs and Day Reporting Center.” From the Riverside County FY 13/14
Governor Brown is proposing 500 million more dollars for county jail
expansion, totaling 1 Billion over 2 years. These expansion projects
saddle counties with ongoing costs of upkeep and staff, and don’t make
strides towards programs that eliminate poverty in California
What are some alternatives to jail expansion?
We would like to suggest alternatives to building new jail space in
Riverside County. There are many models at work in other parts of the
country and within Riverside which we would like to highlight so that our
community is better served.
I. Create a Mental Health Commission
Apply mental health solutions to mental health problems and decriminalize
mental illness. By hiring civilian police employees with mental health
training and creating training programs to help officers recognize mental
illness, counties can divert people with mental illness away from jail
and into emergency mental health care programs instead. Trained officers
identify mental illness and work with other agencies to provide the
necessary treatment outside of detention facilities.
The county can also include the implementation of Psychiatric Emergency
Los Angeles County Department of Mental Health uses Psychiatric Emergency
Teams (PET) which are mobile response teams based in and operated by
psychiatric hospitals approved by the Department of Mental Health, to
provide 5150 and 5585 evaluations. Team members are licensed mental health
clinicians that respond to calls relating to mental health and will come
out to do evaluations. Other mental health teams come out with law
enforcement if there are reports of violence. PET provides additional
resources in specific geographical regions.
In San Bernardino, Veatrice Jews (a nurse), and Troy Mondragon, from Cal
State San Bernardino, MA, SW grad student are part of the San Bernardino
County Board of Supervisors Mental Health Commission. There is also the
African-American Mental Health Coalition, in San Bernardino, which has
outreach workers that go to the community and advise on what mental health
programs are available. The mental health coalition is funded by the
county. These community groups also provide input about what programs are
needed in the community regarding Health and Human Services. A Board of
Supervisors Commission composed of community members and Mental Health
professionals would help direct a more focused response to mental health
problems rather than dealing with them in the criminal justice system.
II. Address Public Safety with Evidence Based Solutions which Avoid
Provide job training for inmates while they are incarcerated and for at
risk people. Programs such as CalWORKS could be optimized in Riverside
County where the need is greatest for state funding. Riverside could use
the State legislative Office to lobby for an increase in CalWORKS funding.
Ban the Box everywhere so that formerly incarcerated people can get jobs.
Tie the funding of jails and prisons to their evidence based success in
preventing recidivism. Decriminalize certain drugs and offer treatment for
addiction. Extend the use of Riverside County Family Preservation Court as
alternative for incarceration and sentencing in the jail system.
Pre-Trial Services Can be Used to Determine Bail Eligibility:
“Effective July 2012, Pre-Trial Services became the responsibility of the
Riverside County Probation Department Field Services budget unit.
Pre-Trial Services’ overall mission is the investigation of individuals to
determine release eligibility in an effort to reduce incarceration costs
and jail overcrowding, taking into account public safety by providing a
risk needs assessment and a community supervision component.” From the
Riverside County FY 13/14 Recommended Budget*
These improvements decrease jail populations by ensuring that people are
moving through the system in a timely fashion. Examples include setting
time limits for releasing pre-trial defendants brought in on certain
charges (i.e.: public drunkenness), transferring committed offenders
(state- readies) to state facilities rapidly, and transferring mentally
ill inmates to state hospitals in a more timely fashion.
Examples of such programs:
Saginaw County, Michigan: Steve Garza, Jail Population Manager 517-790-5408
Broward County, Florida: Sheriff Ken Jenne 954-831-8300
Salt Lake County, Utah: Captain Robert Beenus, County Jail 801-743-5500
Carefully Considerer ICE Holds:
Instead of a 350 bed new jail we can end the ICE holds on those who are
not level 1 (serious felonies) in compliance with the Trust Act and open
up 547 beds (based on the California state average of 14% of jail space
occupied by ICE Holds. On average, they spend nearly three weeks longer in
jail than inmates without immigration holds according to the ACLU *).
III. Have a diverse community stakeholder to give input how to build a
road out of poverty.
Address poverty in a substantive way and not rely so heavily upon mass
incarceration. Reallocate realignment funds to education and find ways to
build affordable and sustainable housing. Riverside County can seek
funding for green development from diverse sources. The federal government
offers funding for the development of afford able and green housing
through the Department of Housing and Urban Development and the Department
of Energy. Additionally, national organizations have loan and grant
programs for green affordable housing.
Energy and Environmental Building Alliance provides education and
resources to transform the residential design, development, and
construction industries to deliver, profitably, energy efficient and
environmentally responsible buildings and communities. Resources offered
by EEBA can be found at: http://www.eeba.org/
Enterprise Community Partners, Inc.: Green Communities Green Communities
is a five-year, $555 million commitment by Enterprise Community Partners,
Inc. to build more than 8,500 healthy, efficient homes for low-income
people and make environmentally sustainable development the mainstream in
the affordable housing industry.
Green Communities provides funding and expertise to enable developers to
build and rehabilitate homes that are healthier, more energy efficient,
and better for the environment–without compromising affordability. Green
Communities also assists state and local governments to ensure their
housing and economic development policies are smart and MAG Green Housing
The website address is:
The MAG (Municipal action Guide) Green Housing document lists many more
sources and examples of completed and ongoing developments.
Riverside County FY 13/14 Recommended Budget:
This document also pulled heavily from Community Alternatives to Jail Expansion:
And also Municipal action Guide: