Expansion of the Humboldt County Jail: Is it worth the cost?

Do not be distracted by the discussion of California Cannabis Voice Humboldt that went on today at the County Board of Supervisor’s meeting. Realistically, nothing of import was said, either by the Board or CCVH representatives that we haven’t heard before.

THC thinks you should be more focused on the Board’s discussion of applying for a $2o million grant in order to expand upon the services offered and the space available at the Humboldt County Jail. Of course, the current action item on the Board’s agenda is merely to hire a consultant to help formulate the proposal and the application for funds made available by the State – but it’s important for the Humboldt public to closely examine the intended purpose and associated cost of the proposed jail facility expansion.

As first reported by Will Houston over at the Times-Standard, “The proposed extension would create the Humboldt County Corrections Reentry Resource Center, which would include 44 new beds for a minimum security reentry program to prepare inmates for successful reentry into society.” The facility would also house a number of other facilities related to support and facilities for offenders seeking reentry to society.

Now, it’s undeniable that Humboldt is in desperate need of an answer to the issues created by our inability to house criminals and to address the issue of recidivism. THC thinks that the proposed facility could potentially provide a part of that solution.

However, the proposal also raises some eyebrows with the fact that construction of the facility would require a County expenditure of $1.6 million dollars. Our county is already hugely in debt. Should we be considering options that significantly increase our debt burdens?

Before you answer that, consider this: the estimated cost of staffing and operating the facility is $1.3 million for the first year alone. So we, as a county,  would be out $2.9 million for a single year. We already have a staffing crisis in terms of correctional officers in our jail. Will creating a need for 20 more officers truly be the appropriate answer to our crime and jailing crisis?

The consultation report alone will cost $39,500, but we are tempted to believe that cost is worth it. There’s no denying that the construction of the proposed jail facility would make an impact on one of the most commonly decried problems here in Humboldt, and from a human perspective, may be of huge help in supporting criminals and offenders who would not be as big of a burden on our County if given appropriate help.

But the underlying question remains: can we afford it?

Let us know what you think, THC fans.

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15 Responses to Expansion of the Humboldt County Jail: Is it worth the cost?

  1. John Chiv says:

    If the funds are being provided by a grant, how is the County going to be in debt? Hiring an outside consultant is not necessary. An additional facility may be able to house offenders by risk level, level of crime and one could be even more of a rehabilitation facility. The new jail expansion
    facility has been discussed before at a press conference and was reported by several media. The discussion has come up again.

    In this case, yes, the cost of the additional corrections officers is less expensive compared to the cost of the booking fees, court fees, and other expenses that cost taxpayers when repeat offenders and others are released due to lack of jail space.

    You do not need a consultant or debate to see what releasing people who do not want to change costs the taxpayers. That is why crime headlines drive blog traffic. There are people who want to change, get an education, re enter into society. They should be housed separately so they are around supportive people with the same goal. That cost is an efficient use of investing into people who want to change and leave their criminal past behind.

    Liked by 1 person

    • It is our understanding (from Houston’s article and the supplement that accompanied the item on today’s B.o.S. agenda) that the County will have to provide $1.6 million of funds, which includes a 10% match on the grant, in order to qualify for the funds and build the facility, as well as foot the operating costs for the facility. Please correct us if wrong.

      We’ve heard the discussion before, and remember (both from vaguely paying attention when it was happening, and from Will Houston’s article) that the County was denied the funds a few years ago because they did not demonstrate they had the cash designated for the project.

      We see eye to eye on the continual drain put on the County by people who won’t/don’t/can’t change. But we really are curious if the facility is cost-effective. It would make sense that it is, but the County can’t afford to throw that amount of money at something without having anything to back it up. Which we have not seen. Do you have specifics as to the cost-benefit of the proposed facility?

      And, to echo milldoin, where is that money coming from? Does the County have a plan at all for that?

      Like

  2. milldoin says:

    If the Supervisors can pull this off by cutting the size of the County government, and or cutting salaries, then I am all for it. But if they think they can con me into paying higher taxes while doing nothing to bring good jobs back to the County, then forget about it.

    Like

  3. URI says:

    I agree that spending $40 K to see if it is feasible is realistic. Obviously helping improve the recidivism rate would be huge for a lot of reasons. The question as to where the county is going to come up with the $2.9 mil every year is a totally fair question that needs an answer before support can even be asked for.

    Like

  4. eyerollah says:

    so why do we need to pay for and build a facility for this program, couldn’t these lower risk people be housed and maintained in a rented facility somewhere downtown, is the theory and practice so proven that of course a new physical facility is needed first or ‘it just won’t work!’
    It sounds like a nice sounding pilot program to support/house the jail extension grants applications…ie smoke and mirrors for grabbing other taxpayer’s money…or something.

    The jail extension has been talked about for a long time, and now boop!, it’s couched in this feel good grant jabber…but maybe I am just too cynical, sorry..

    Like

    • John Chiv says:

      As usual, eyerollah, you spout off your anti law enforcement crap without reading. There are funds provided for this purpose. Who is we paying? You are an anonymous poster. No one has proof you pay taxes? Have you ever rented as a landlord? Why don’t you buy a property and rent to people who may or may not trash your property, do drugs, commit crimes. The structure of the jail is needed to change a lifetime of behavior. This is not the Tuluwat where hate for any law is automatic. It is a blog that raises questions about government.As usual, eyerollah, you spout off your anti law enforcement crap without reading. There are funds provided for this purpose. Who is we paying? You are an anonymous poster. No one has proof you pay for taxes? Have you ever rented as a landlord? Why don’t you buy a property and rent to people who may or may not trash your property, do drugs, commit crimes. The structure of the jail is needed to change a lifetime of behavior.

      Like

  5. Sammy says:

    Could it be the BOS may see this as a way to pre-release those that would get out in the middle of the night? Hmm, perhaps draft a local ordinance to keep everyone until 8 a.m. period.
    Is the consultant the person to actually draft the grant application? Why does the BOS see fit to spend our money when there is already adult education programs and classes at C/R? Provide bus rides to and from classes instead! One of the best ways the county can save millions is to NOT FILE LAWSUITS or DEFEND STUPID ONESE or DROP EXISTING STUPID ONES against its own residents. Keep hearing and seeing thoughts from BOS on settling the Tooby Ranch matter – LET GO OF THE BONE.

    Like

  6. MOLA42 says:

    I think Mr. Chiv is right to say the system needs reform… it is pretty obvious that what we are doing now is not working.

    We release prisoners in exactly the same state they entered jail in the first place and expect that somehow there will be a change in that person’s behavior. Surprise! They don’t change.

    What we are talking about seems to be an attempt to reverse that.

    There needs to be a way for prisoners who do want to change their ways to get meaningful help BEFORE their eventual release back into society. That means breaking the old social contacts, breaking the old thought patterns and introducing new ways to approach their lives.

    It means giving that prisoner who wants to change a chance to change… not just dump that person on the street and expect that person to change strictly on his/her own (it does work occasionally, but not often).

    It means teaching survival skills to flourish as a citizen, not depend on the old skills acquired to be a thief or a thug or a drug addict.

    Is this the perfect approach? I don’t know. I haven’t seen better suggested.

    However, any approach requires investment on our part. Without that investment, nothing will be any different and an unacceptable situation will continue.

    *****
    Mr. Chiv may want to realize that not everyone recognizes his “expert” status on these issues and instead of unloading on those who appear to not “get it” to instead exercise a little patience (see his above response to “eyerollah”).

    Like

    • John Chiv says:

      MOLA, MOLA, MOLA, you do not need to be an expert, you just need to read instead of responding with a knee jerk reaction. The THC post provided a lot of information and so did my comment with additional information on funds and a plan which was included under the agenda item.
      As for unloading, I will not point out the obvious, you know, in the spirit of patience.
      As you correctly pointed out, these are efforts to rehabilitate people while they are in jail, so they don’t reoffend. aA point being missed in this discussion. And giving people a chance to use time productively while in jail.
      Ken d makes excellent points as usual.

      Like

  7. ken d says:

    Good points all. One would hope that politicians at all levels have figured out by now that free money to do new projects/programs is never free. As stated, it’s the next 20-30 years of staffing and maintaining the “grant” where the real cost will be.

    It is my understanding that the footprint for the proposed addition to the courthouse will supposedly take up most if not all of the current parking lot, which would obviously create another problem, that being employee parking.

    In addition, would it not be interesting to know the total amount of off site square footage the County currently leases to house programs started and funded by previous “free” grants. It’s safe to assume we woud most likely be shocked.

    Like

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