Monday, April 23 , 2018, 5:01 pm | Mostly Cloudy 61º


Local News

County Supervisors Approve Funding to Expand Hours of Santa Maria Jail

Board votes to use contingency reserves to help law enforcement agencies struggling with excessive transportation time to Santa Barbara

The Santa Barbara County Board of Supervisors approved funding Tuesday to expand the Santa Maria Branch Jail’s hours after law enforcement agencies detailed the hardships of transporting all arrestees to Santa Barbara.

Hours were cut for the 29-bed facility in 2011 due to budget issues, so if North County agencies arrest someone outside the hours of 7 p.m. to 4 a.m., they have to make the long trip to the Main Jail at 4436 Calle Real.

Sheriff Bill Brown presented an interim solution to cut down on travel time until the new Santa Maria Jail is operational, expected in 2018.

The supervisors approved his plan and authorized $272,000 for the 2013-14 year, which funds a transportation team of two deputies until next June and then returns the jail to a 24-hour, seven-day-a-week schedule. When it was open full-time, this location accounted for a third of the county's total bookings, according to the Sheriff's Department website

No additional staff will be hired for the first phase, which will pay deputies overtime, but three custody deputies need to be hired in March for the second phase, Brown said.

There will be a net loss of 21 beds in an already overcrowded custody system as well. Reopening the Santa Maria branch will bring back 29 beds, but in order to pay for the change, Brown proposed closing a unit of the Main Jail and reassigning those custody deputies.

Law enforcement agencies are struggling with the extra transportation time, which means more officers are taken off the streets, Brown said.

Supervisors were frustrated that Brown didn’t bring the issue forward in June during budget discussions, but he said county staff had made it very clear there was no money for additional services, only a status quo budget.

Supervisor Peter Adam said the consequences should have been anticipated when the jail’s hours were cut in the first place. He wanted Brown to find the money within the Sheriff’s Department budget, but the board voted to use contingency reserves instead.

Law enforcement representatives urged the board to reopen the Santa Maria Branch Jail.

Santa Maria Mayor Alice Patino said the city’s residents pay twice as much property tax to the county as the city and even passed Measure U for more public safety and core service support. With officers on the road transporting arrestees to the Main Jail in Santa Barbara, she said residents aren’t getting the services they’re paying for.

Santa Maria Police Chief Ralph Martin said the city has transported 1,817 arrestees to the Main Jail since the facility reduced its hours in 2011. The SMPD isn’t in the transportation and detention business — the Sheriff’s Department is, City Manager Rick Haydon said.

The department has driven 160,000 miles since the Santa Maria Branch Jail’s hours were cut, he said. To put that in perspective, the Earth’s circumference is just under 25,000 miles, he noted.

“We drive six times around the Earth just to transport prisoners from the North County to the South County,” Haydon said.

Guadalupe Police Chief Gary Hoving said the trip takes three to four hours. Recently a woman was arrested for driving under the influence of prescription drugs and the department couldn’t spare an officer to transport her, he said.

“We handcuffed her to a bench for four hours,” Hoving said.

Guadalupe Mayor Frances Romero emphasized the need to have two officers on duty for each shift. The city’s 10-person department is put in danger when officers are on the streets without backup, which happens when one has to transport someone to jail, she said.

The California Highway Patrol has the same problem and has to schedule its shifts around the Santa Maria Branch Jail operating hours in addition to traffic peak hours and other factors, Lt. Alex Carrillo said.

Wesley Maroney, police chief for Allan Hancock College’s two locations, said his officers have to cite and release felony suspects because they can’t leave the campus unattended.

The county has received state funding for a new North County Jail, which is expected to be constructed and finished by 2018, so the full-time staffing of the Santa Maria Branch Jail is seen as an interim measure.

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.

  • Ask
  • Vote
  • Investigate
  • Answer

Noozhawk Asks: What’s Your Question?

Welcome to Noozhawk Asks, a new feature in which you ask the questions, you help decide what Noozhawk investigates, and you work with us to find the answers.

Here’s how it works: You share your questions with us in the nearby box. In some cases, we may work with you to find the answers. In others, we may ask you to vote on your top choices to help us narrow the scope. And we’ll be regularly asking you for your feedback on a specific issue or topic.

We also expect to work together with the reader who asked the winning questions to find the answer together. Noozhawk’s objective is to come at questions from a place of curiosity and openness, and we believe a transparent collaboration is the key to achieve it.

The results of our investigation will be published here in this Noozhawk Asks section. Once or twice a month, we plan to do a review of what was asked and answered.

Thanks for asking!

Click Here to Get Started >

Support Noozhawk Today

You are an important ally in our mission to deliver clear, objective, high-quality professional news reporting for Santa Barbara, Goleta and the rest of Santa Barbara County. Join the Hawks Club today to help keep Noozhawk soaring.

We offer four membership levels: $5 a month, $10 a month, $25 a month or $1 a week. Payments can be made through PayPal below, or click here for information on recurring credit-card payments.

Thank you for your vital support.

Maestro, Mastercard, Visa, American Express, Discover, Debit

Reader Comments

Noozhawk is no longer accepting reader comments on our articles. Click here for the announcement. Readers are instead invited to submit letters to the editor by emailing them to [email protected]. Please provide your full name and community, as well as contact information for verification purposes only.

Daily Noozhawk

Subscribe to Noozhawk's A.M. Report, our free e-Bulletin sent out every day at 4:15 a.m. with Noozhawk's top stories, hand-picked by the editors.

Sign Up Now >