County Manager’s Office



January 31, 2008



Honorable Board of Supervisors


David Boesch, Assistant County Manager


Sheriff’s Office Agenda Items on February 5, 2008


The Board of Supervisors have an afternoon meeting next Tuesday, February 5, 2008, at which it will consider a number of recommendations from the Sheriff. A total of five separate but interrelated matters have been agendized for Board direction. In order, the Sheriff will present proposals to; open La Honda for men and North County for women, have the Board receive the yet-to-be-received Needs Assessment; and, to provide staff direction on pursuing State grant funding and on a communications outreach plan. This memorandum is intended to provide some additional context and clarification around what is before the Board and the critical timing involved. Please note, however, that due to the tight timing involved with the multiple iterations of working draft documents received from the Sheriff’s Office, that this office has signed-off only to enable the Board Members to get these sooner than would otherwise have been possible after a more thorough review.


 San Mateo County has an exemplary history of collaboration in many policy arenas, with criminal justice as an excellent manifestation of our Vision where County agencies, local police departments and nonprofit service providers have worked closely, cooperatively and strategically over the years. For years, the Board-established Jail Overcrowding Task Force (JOTF) has been engaged in a process of analyzing crowded conditions in our men’s and women’s facilities as they provide a particularly key and integral part of the entire criminal justice system. As an adjunct to this group’s efforts, a subcommittee was formed to explore shorter-term strategies to minimize and mitigate current crowding, and an internal working group comprised mostly of staff has been meeting weekly to formulate plans and provide feedback to the Sheriff’s Office on different aspects, approaches and alternatives to managing the jail population. Others and I have provided feedback to the Sheriff as he prepared his Board recommendations. Ultimately, it was the Sheriff’s decision to bring these forward in their present form.

In these multiple venues, the approach has been to seek consensus on the nature and root causes of the challenges we face and to bring that information and perspective forward to the Board of Supervisors. At this juncture, this remains a work in progress as differing points of view have been shared and are debated. Each of us recognize that our jail facilities are important community assets that serve both a correctional and rehabilitation function. Moreover, the treatment and services rendered to inmates during incarceration are a critical part in their potential successful reintegration into society.

The time element for bringing this all to the Board now is driven in large part by the need to decide whether or not to pursue State funding under the Public Safety and Offender Rehabilitation Services Act of 2007 (also referred to as AB900). The deadline for proposals to be received by the State is March 18, 2008. Under the provisions of AB900, State funding is available on a competitive proposal basis, with up to $100 million per county for local jail facilities construction subject to a 25% county match. Needless to say, there are a number of “strings attached” to the funding that the Sheriff will identify in his proposal next Tuesday, at which time he will be seeking Board direction. I estimate, by using the State’s goals for number of jail beds divided by total funding available, that the County could build upwards of 700 new jail beds if maximum grant funding were received. The consultant preparing the Needs Assessment is to provide a jail facility architectural program and cost estimate as well.
As an important precursor to decisions about replacement and/or expanded jail facilities, the Board approved a two-phase consultant contract to evaluate current needs and forecast future scenarios. Staff had hoped that the final report would have been completed in time such that it could be broadly circulated for comment and feedback before bringing it to the Board for its consideration. (At this point, I still have not yet seen the report but understand that it will be provided to Board Members and others in advance of the meeting next week.) In a JOTF meeting this past Tuesday afternoon, the lead consultant provided some findings to the group as a part of the Sheriff’s presentation. The consultant and Sheriff will recommend that the Board consider a new medium security facility for 776 men and women. After evaluating several site alternatives, the consultant has identified the current Maple Street property as the best. As a part of the decision-making process, the Board will need to consider the temporary and potential permanent displacement of the homeless shelter, in addition to the relocation costs and logistics of the current jail population and work furlough operation.
We are at a critical crossroads, as the Board is being asked to consider a number of specific actions. Of course, all of this is occurring as staff throughout the organization is hard at work solving the County’s structural deficit. Opening new correctional facilities have both capital and operating cost implications. Some of these expenses have been anticipated in the County’s plans, but others need more analysis in light of constrained resources. The opening of either or both the North County women’s reentry program facility or the men’s medium security facility in La Honda would impact the County’s structural deficit. Building a new jail of the size magnitude recommended will essentially double the costs attributable to Maguire and the Maple Street facilities.
Finally, it is unfortunate that we face a hard deadline that forces us to make certain decision, with such limited time for informed deliberation. Ideally, the Board would have more time to review, process and discuss the findings and recommendations contained within the anticipated needs assessment report. That cannot occur if we decide to apply for state funding in the current round. The application will force us to peg the size and location of the facility we are prepared to build. The resolution the Board must pass before the deadline will commit us to a direction. To accept State funding if notified of funds being awarded, we will need to further bind ourselves to specific timeframes and project deliverables in May of this year.

I trust that the Board finds the information from the Sheriff’s Office sufficient for it to have a healthy discussion and to provide the direction being sought next Tuesday.