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Sunday, November 18 , 2018, 2:03 pm | Fair with Haze 66º


Governor Signs Bill That Could Lead to More Overcrowding at Santa Barbara County Jail

Assembly Bill 109 shifts the burden of housing inmates, but it won’t be implemented until the state can back up the mandate with funding

Gov. Jerry Brown signed a bill Monday that will shift the burden of housing lower-level, nonviolent offenders from state prisons to county jails and that could gradually send 300 more inmates through the Santa Barbara County Sheriff’s Department, according to department spokesman Drew Sugars.

County jails are less expensive to house inmates, and lesser offenders such as parole violators often spend only a few months in prison, according to the Los Angeles Times.

Assembly Bill 109 won’t be implemented until the state can back up the mandate with funding, which Sugars said is imperative for counties to handle the extra inmates. He said there needs to be a constitutional amendment that provides for continuous funding so counties don’t have to fight for money each year.

Santa Barbara County’s Main Jail and other detention facilities are perennially overcrowded, so funding needs go beyond housing and programs for inmates — it needs to cover increased capacity, according to Sugars.

In November, voters turned down Measure S, a public safety half-cent sales tax. Though the county was awarded a $56 million grant to build a new jail, it’s conditional on the county providing matching funds for construction and operation.

Sheriff Bill Brown is in touch with other counties and remains “proactive” about finding solutions to overcrowding, because as it stands now, “we don’t have the facilities to accommodate 300 more inmates,” Sugars said.

Eighty percent of Santa Barbara Main Jail inmates are pre-trial — generally more violent, since their high bail or lack of bail keeps them off the streets — and the rest are serving sentences of up to one year. People convicted of longer sentences are sent to state prisons.

The Sheriff’s Department has experience in recidivism-reducing programs such as the Sheriff’s Treatment Program, educational programs and day reporting centers that offer services for recently released inmates transitioning back into society.

Noozhawk staff writer Giana Magnoli can be reached at .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address). Follow Noozhawk on Twitter: @noozhawk or @NoozhawkNews.

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