Officials: Larger jail needed 

A proposed new 316-bed women’s correctional facility would only solve half the county’s jail overcrowding problem, according to officials.

A report on jail needs released Friday calls for the construction of a new jail at the current location on Maple Street, with 72 beds to be set aside for alcohol and drug treatment. Sixteen beds would be designated maximum security, with 70 beds designated medium security and 158 minimum security, according to the Maple Street Correctional Facilities Needs Assessment Report.

But on the same day the report was released, sheriff’s officials hesitated to fully endorse its recommendations, saying its didn’t go far enough and would leave the men’s jail bursting at the seams.

As many as 174 inmates have been housed at the Women’s Jail in recent months where 84 are ideal, according to San Mateo County Sheriff’s Office statistics.

Comparatively, the men’s Maguire Correctional Facility, rated for 688 inmates, housed more than 1,000 in February, records show.

The findings of the Maple Street report, originally envisioned as a road map to improving services at the aging Women’s Jail, could be sidelined while the Sheriff’s Office tries to gain support for a more comprehensive study on how to solve overcrowding at both the men’s and women’s facilities, according to Assistant Sheriff Greg Trindle.

The Sheriff’s Office plans to ask for an additional $120,000 next month to study a more comprehensive fix to overcrowding in both the men’s and women’s jails, perhaps by building a combined 500-bed facility, Trindle said.

"I see the first phase [Maple Street] as a fix for half of the system, and phase two is a fix for the entire system," Trindle said. The second study wouldn’t be duplicative or make the first obsolete, Trindle said.

If approved by county supervisors next month, the $120,000 would come on top of the $130,000 the county paid Huskey & Associates to come up with the Maple Street report, Trindle said.

"I think we can do both, with the two pieces being joined together," Trindle said.

The Maple Street report also calls for a new commitment by the county to drug treatment, family counseling, child visitation and work training programs for female inmates, 88 percent of whom are incarcerated for nonviolent drug, theft or property crimes, according to Supervisor Mark Church, who sat on the jail assessment advisory committee.

"We need to stop housing inmates and start rehabilitating them," Church said.

If the county focuses on providing inmates with the treatment and skills they need to reintegrate into society it will be more cost effective, not to mention better for society, Church said.

"Too many women with relatively minor violations are being housed in expensive maximum-security beds," Church said.

Who’s at the Women’s Jail?

» 88 percent of women are incarcerated for nonviolent, drug, theft or property crimes

» 80 percent reported having moderate to severe alcohol or drug problems

» Methamphetamine was the most commonly listed drug of choice

» An average of 47 percent reported never having received substance abuse treatment, and "few" were receiving treatment

- Source: Maple Street Correctional Facilities Needs Assessment Report

ecarpenter@examiner.com

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