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Local News

Santa Barbara County Awarded $60 Million in State Funding to Build New Jail

The county could be eligible later for an additional $20 million for the $95 million, 376-bed North County facility

Santa Barbara County was awarded a $60 million state grant on Thursday for building a new 376-bed North County jail facility, which is more important than ever given the additional burden of realignment, according to the Sheriff’s Department.

Sheriff Bill Brown called the grant from the Corrections Standards Authority a milestone, saying it would add bed space and better services at a lower cost to the county.

Current jail facilities are perennially overcrowded and got an influx of state prison inmates with state realignment, which allows more inmates to serve long-term sentences in county jails rather than prison and releases some prisoners on parole early.

In a presentation to the county Board of Supervisors, Sheriff Brown said 52 percent of the returning prison inmates have long-term medical or mental health needs, which is why the new jail plans include 16 medical and 16 mental health beds.

Applying for the Phase II grant required the county to give up its earlier award of $56.3 million, which was awarded in 2008 through the first phase of the Public Safety and Offender Rehabilitation Services Act of 2007, or AB 900.

The county was awarded $60 million out of possible $80 million, but Brown remains hopeful the county could earn another $20 million. For that to happen, state legislation would have to be passed to redistribute the “Phase I” pool of money forfeited by counties which applied for Phase II, according to Sheriff’s Department spokesman Drew Sugars.

Even without the extra $20 million, the county is better off with an extra $4 million and a lowered match requirement, Sugars said. The county’s grant is conditional on the county raising matching funds of 10 percent — instead of 25 percent — and yearly operational costs estimated around $15 million.

The new jail is expected to cost about $95 million, compared with the $76 million for the proposed 304-bed facility. Sales tax measures were defeated by voters in both 2000 and 2010.

The Corrections Standards Authority awarded $602 million total to 11 counties at Thursday’s board meeting.

Noozhawk staff writer Giana Magnoli can be reached at .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address). Follow Noozhawk on Twitter: @noozhawk, @NoozhawkNews and @NoozhawkBiz. Connect with Noozhawk on Facebook.

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