Assembly Bill 109, and a subsequent ruling by the U.S. Supreme Court, will place hundreds of low-level offenders who had been residents of the California prison system in to county jails across the state.
In preparation for the influx, county officials sought the maximum $33 million in grants from the state to expand the jail facility. Last week it was announced the state had awarded the county $23.6 million of that request, with a match required from the county of only $1.1 million.
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This truly is good news, as the jail will get the opportunity to not only modernize its facilities, but to add 220 beds, bringing the capacity up to more than 830 beds.
There has been no timetable set yet, but Sheriff Ray Loera said last week some type of construction will begin within the year.
Still, despite the good news, there is still the matter of how Imperial County is supposed to fund this unfunded mandate from Sacramento. Yes, realignment this year comes with a comparatively small amount of cash in $1.2 million this fiscal year and some as-yet undetermined amount next fiscal year.
But there have still been no guarantees that the state will provide more to the counties on an annual basis for the housing of its released inmate population. That is a real concern for Imperial County, among the poorest counties in California.
Work is going on in terms to trying to amend the state Constitution to permanently provide payment to the counties for this purpose, with talk of a November ballot initiative. Yet, those are lot of maybes and ifs for something that has already happened.
We hope our local representatives and officials continue to make sure the state pays its fair share. California counties are no stranger to unfunded mandates, and the last thing they — and especially Imperial County — needs is another.
So, while the jail grant is something we can be pleased about, let’s not lose sight that its operation and the bodies that will fill it needs funding, too.
County receives $24 million for jail expansion
The grant is good news, but county needs funding for jail.
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