Napa Jail Is Not Overcrowded, Sheriff Says

UPDATED WITH SIGNIFICANT CORRECTIONS: While prison realignment hasn't yet led to violence at the Napa jail, Napa County Sheriff John Robertson favors a minimum-security honor farm as an alternative for non-violent offenders. Do you agree?

Correction, June 22: Due to a combination of reporting and editing errors, Sheriff John Robertson was not quoted accurately when this article was originally published with a different headline and URL. Louisa deeply regrets the errors and apologizes to the Sheriff and to the Napa County Department of Corrections.

The prison realignment measure implemented Oct. 1, 2011 by the state of California could put pressure on the criminal justice system in Napa County, according to Sheriff John Robertson.

Intended to reduce overcrowding at state prisons, the new policy mandates some non-violent criminals who would normally be sentenced to prison now serve their time in jail in the county where they were convicted. 

“We have an unique situation here in Napa County as the does not run the jail,” said Robertson, 53, who was appointed sheriff by the board of supervisors in April to replace the retiring Doug Koford.

“However, just because we don’t operate the jail, realignment also affects our department as well," he continued.

While the jail is operated by the , inmate violence often requires the sheriff's department to get involved:

“We have to transport all injured inmates to and guard the inmates' hospital rooms,” Robertson explained.

Robertson said he favors modification of the jail to include an honor farm for non-violent convicted criminals and inmates awaiting trial.

“We could put these people to work. It would be a minimum security facility. While there, inmates could go to school, learn a trade and attend alcohol and drug recovery programs,” he said.

“These programs teach skills and help offenders prepare for a job when they are released.

“They could be responsible for a community garden. And the produce they raise could be used for the and ,” Robertson said.

“They could sell their food at the .”

What do you think? Should Napa County consider these alternatives to jail? Tell us in the comments below.

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john dannewitz June 21, 2012 at 02:31 AM
First some of the comments should not have been said. Farmers market competition? Are we going back to the State Farm system that worked? Whats wrong with a program like cleaning and maintaining the parks, sweeping streets and sidewalks, trimming park lands, hillside trees, stop sign blocked bushes and trees, remove the mistletoe infested trees in Bel Aire, etc. and replace. Pick up trash on the County roads and county and city streets. Wash windows in County buildings. Wash sidewalks in business district. Don't create another vegtable growing place with a limited season plus government stay out of our food supply you have given us enough diseases already. Stick to the easy stuff.
john s. mccullough June 21, 2012 at 02:21 PM
Don't you know that we live in Calif., home of the free ride? We require drug screening for job applicants and employees, who represent our wage earning-tax paying base, while rejecting the idea screening welfare recipients. Your concept of providing inmate labor would interfer with the prisioners TV viewing, gang activities and profitable drug dealing schemes. I am also wondering why you would want to reduce the public payroll when the savings might be wasted on some school program!. My God, sir, do you realize that what you are proposing is that these Napa prisioners be required to work for their room and board? That the 'fruits' of their labor would in essence reduce the burden that their incarceration places on our crumbling state budget? Do you realize that you would be asking that our spineless officials to stand up to the mighty forces of POLITICAL CORRECTNESS? Our prisioners deserve the best: 'Three hots and a cot'. And TV. All day. Like you said...stick to the easy stuff. Stop suggesting that we go against the grain of our methodology, which has morphed to now be- 'If it's broke don't fix it'. Stop suggesting that our system needs some improvement. Stop asking those 'in charge' to make a decision that will cause marvelously expensive a law suit that will certainly be overturned by some court of appeals (9th circuit?). Let sleeping dogs lie. Our prisioners need their R&R. A large number have never really worked. They are needed to fuel our 'correctional industry'.
Scott Yeager June 21, 2012 at 02:58 PM
Yes, they should consider the alternatives.
Unfiltered Steve Simoneau June 21, 2012 at 03:41 PM
It's obvious John that your impression of jail comes from TV drama series. The State Codes And Regulations requires only one meal be above room temp, that a mattress be only 2 inches thick, and they can keep inmates locked down in their cells (without TVs) for 23 hours a day. Anyone in such a living situation BEGS for any job to have something to do.
Scott Yeager June 21, 2012 at 04:02 PM
Jail is a free ride! Wow, who wouldn't want to go and spend some time in one?
john s. mccullough June 21, 2012 at 10:48 PM
Dear Unfiltered- I realize that they 'can be' locked down 23. But, are they? I am single so I usually have one meal per day above room tempurature. Otherwise this posting is a bit tongue in cheek. But, on the serious side I really believe it is a great idea. And I understand that many inmates would love to get out and about with something to do. I also really believe that someone will find a way to torpedo the programs' implementation. I'd bet lunch on it as long as its not at The French Laundry.
Louisa Hufstader (Editor) June 21, 2012 at 11:06 PM
It's not always a cot, when things get crowded: When I toured the Napa jail as news director for the radio stations a few years back, I was shown a stack of plastic "boat beds," just molded shells with one end wider than the other that keep the sleepers a few inches above the floor. Very unappealing.
Steven M. June 22, 2012 at 01:57 AM
The governor’s response to prison overcrowding and to save the state money was to dump the responsibility onto the counties via the Public Safety Realignment Act or AB109. As a result, jails across the state are becoming overcrowded. Consequently, criminals are either being released back into the community or the jails are refusing to book the criminals into their facilities. Napa Corrections has already experienced this and it will only get worse. Napa Corrections has released the least serious criminals, which means that all that is left to release are the more serious criminals. Because of the jail overcrowding across the state, it is just a matter of time before the counties either ask the state for money or propose raising local taxes to pay for jail expansion and staffing of jails. Counties will begin to experience the same pains that the state prison system has been experiencing over the past several years, which is overcrowded facilities and an increasing number of mental health criminals and medical costs. Just like the state of California, Napa County tax payers will be burdened with the cost of expensive lawsuits and settlements.
Unfiltered Steve Simoneau June 22, 2012 at 05:44 PM
The most politically powerful unions in CA is the Correctional/Law Enforcement Officers Unions. They carry unmatched influence upon State lawmakers and will only support actions that create work or income for their members. If there is any bill going through Sacramento that would force facilities to hire more Correctional Officers then they will back it aggressively. Their belief is that if we build more prisons (to hire more correctional officers to run them) and lock up as many people as possible then the public will be much safer. It is a form of passive terrorism upon the public, telling people that bad things will happen to them unless they do what the C.O. Union wants.
Scott Yeager June 22, 2012 at 06:43 PM
You can also thank the media for the fear they create with their "if it bleeds, it leads" motto (people in areas that don't have much violent crime think there is more of it where they live than there is), our absurd and failed "war" on drugs, and many other factors as well.
Louisa Hufstader (Editor) June 22, 2012 at 07:56 PM
Um ... You're welcome, Scott. Just understand that "it leads when it bleeds" because the media has been shown, in ways it would be stupid to ignore, that this is what the majority readers want. The readership numbers for Napa Patch, in particular the "open rate" on our daily newsletter, show that without any doubt! And the occasions are few on which none of our most-read stories (usually listed to the right of article pages) involves death, destruction or mayhem. Why don't more people click on good news? It's a mystery.
Louisa Hufstader (Editor) June 22, 2012 at 09:55 PM
MAJOR CORRECTION! Due to a combination of reporting and editing errors, Sheriff John Robertson was not quoted accurately when this article was originally published. Louisa deeply regrets the errors and apologizes to the Sheriff and to the Napa County Department of Corrections.
Scott Yeager June 22, 2012 at 10:09 PM
I was thinking strictly of television when I wrote that and not the antiquated print media or the new media of the internet. I associate "if it bleeds, it leads" with television. I didn't clarify that when I wrote the comment. I remember when a friend of mine moved to L.A. to go to UCLA in the 80s and the first time I went to visit him we somehow ended up watching the 5pm news one day. He hadn't been down there very long and we both felt pulverized after the first 15 minutes were nothing but murder, death and destruction. It freaked both of us out. I have never forgotten that experience. I think the 80s is when it got really bad with television news and it has been downhill ever since.
Scott Yeager June 22, 2012 at 10:10 PM
Since I blog on here am I part of the media?!
Louisa Hufstader (Editor) June 22, 2012 at 10:50 PM
Scott, here's my motto: We Are All The Media. But I draw the line at TV news myself: "Pulverized" is the perfect word for how I feel when I watch, which isn't often. (Do you remember how in "Calvin & Hobbes," Bill Watterson drew the little TV leaping up and down on the table like Rumpelstiltskin?)


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