Almanac

News - January 29, 2014

County awarded $24 million to improve inmate rehab

by Dave Boyce

A $24 million state grant for improvements at the current San Mateo County jail will be used to renovate facilities for mentally ill inmates, redesign a recreation yard for inmates with lengthy sentences, establish a "store" to train inmates in retail skills, and upgrade the entire jail to better survive a major earthquake, according to the Sheriff's Office.

The Board of State and Community Corrections on Jan. 16 named San Mateo County as one of 15 counties that qualified for a piece of $500 million in funding for rehabilitative programs, part of Gov. Jerry Brown's realignment program.

The program, begun in 2011, lowers the populations of overcrowded state prisons by gradually transferring parolees and prisoners convicted of "non-violent, non-serious and non-sex-related" crimes to county jails.

"Realignment seeks to improve rehabilitation results by keeping offenders close to families and support systems," the board says. Thirty-six counties applied for funds. Counties that did not receive funding have 30 days to appeal the decisions by the board's executive steering committee.

San Mateo County Sheriff Greg Munks called the winning of the $24.4 million grant a collaborative effort. "Ultimately, we are striving to improve outcomes for those incarcerated in our county and as a result, reduce recidivism and make our county an even safer place to live," he said.

The county is building a new jail, expected to open in 2015, at Maple and Blomquist streets in Redwood City. The $160 million, 260,000-square-foot facility will house 640 inmates, replace the women's jail, and relieve overcrowding at the current downtown jail.

County Supervisor Adrienne Tissier noted the Board of Supervisors' "long held priority to adequately fund mental health care for all San Mateo County residents who need it, including those who are incarcerated."

Among the uses proposed by other counties for the state funds: space for GED and classes in substance-abuse recovery, day-reporting centers for parolees, and transitional housing.

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