Some San Mateo County inmates may need to be relocated to facilities in Alameda County if overcrowding in the local jail continues its climb to critical levels.
The San Mateo County Board of Supervisors recently approved a resolution authorizing Sheriff Greg Munks to spend up to $3 million to relieve pressure in the overpopulated local jails by transferring some inmates to the East Bay. The proposal will likely only be put into action if the jail population increases significantly before construction of a new facility is completed, sheriff's officials say.
"Our problem is our system's too small for our county," Munks said.
San Mateo County's Maguire Correctional Facility for men has held an average of 912 inmates this year, despite being authorized for only 688 beds.
The Women's Correctional Center, with a maximum capacity of 84 beds, currently houses 130 inmates.
"I'm more concerned about the female population. Once we hit 150 or so, we're in pretty dire straits," said Munks.
The male population can reach roughly 1,100 before triggering a crisis response, he noted.
Construction is underway on the new Maple Street Correctional Center in Redwood City, which will replace the outmoded Women's Correctional Center and accommodate 576 men and women. But it is not expected to be open to house inmates until January 2016.
The option to shift inmates to Alameda County is simply a contingency plan for the Sheriff's Department for the next two years, which, according to Munks, likely won't be exercised.
"I do not anticipate having to utilize this," Munks said. "We just want to have it in place in the event that the population spikes between now and the completion of the jail project."
According to the contract negotiated, Alameda County would house San Mateo County inmates at a daily rate of $125 per person. That amount will decrease incrementally to $85 if more than 45 inmates are relocated.
Inmates to be transferred will be selected based on a number of factors. Those whose homes and families are in the East Bay or who might benefit from programs in Alameda County will be given priority, as will inmates who don't have recurring court dates or medical issues that require them to stay near Redwood City.
Jail overcrowding is not new to San Mateo County.
The 2011 realignment of state prisons has driven up the local men's population by 10 percent and added an estimated 30 to 40 percent to the number of female inmates, since they tend to be the nonviolent, nonserious, nonsex offenders targeted by realignment policies, according to Munks.
Flooding and maintenance issues have also reduced capacity in the women's jail on multiple occasions and an increasing need for solitary housing of gang-affiliated inmates in the men's jail has further stressed space constraints there, according to Assistant Sheriff Tom Gallagher.
Supervisor Don Horsley, a former sheriff, has expressed support for increased use of electronic ankle monitoring as a means of reducing in-custody populations, especially incarcerated mothers.
But Munks is not convinced on boosting ankle monitoring, saying, "I'm concerned about crime trends going up and I don't think that now's the time to experiment with those types of programs."
Ankle monitoring will be expanded for inmates in step-down programs preparing for re-entry into society, but not for those serving out their regular sentences.