Napa County officials and law enforcement are brainstorming to come up with a final plan to ease the gnawing problem of overcrowding at Napa County Department of Corrections.
Plans to enlarge the downtown Napa County jail are a mainstay on the county’s to-do list.
At this time, officials are looking at a couple of options: Build a new jail farther from downtown; or add on to the existing jail on Coombs Street behind the Napa County Criminal Courthouse, according to NCDC Director Lenard Vare.
The proposed sites are at Highway 29, south of Napa State Hospital and near the Vare said.
“Adding onto the current jail would include building a new facility incorporating the jail’s parking lot,” he added.
“We had a public meeting last week and about a dozen people showed up. The consensus from those in attendance was they supported a jail outside of downtown.”
The decision of where and when to get the ball rolling on a new jail is not going to happen any time soon,
“It could take some years. There are EIRs (environmental impact studies,) permits, designs and funding to be addressed,” Vare said. “And all of that takes times. It’s a lengthly process.”
In addition to expanding the jail, the county is also negotiating to lease space at Napa State Hospital to house 50 inmates, according to Napa County Chief Probation Officer Mary Butler.
The staff security residential facility at NSH will be overseen by the county probation department.
“It is not a jail and will not operate as a jail,” Butler said. “It’s a residential treatment facility. However patients (inmates) will not be allowed to come and go, except for employment.”
The goal of the facility is to give those incarcerated in the county jail opportunities to re-enter the community after they have served their jail time, Butler said.
“We will offer programs that will give them skills to make it easier for them once they are released from jail to get back into the community as contributing citizens,” she said.
For example if a person has a job and is arrested, convicted and sentenced to a short period of jail time, in that time, “they could lose their job,” Butler said.
“This residential treatment program would allow that person to go to work each day, enroll in programs at the facility, and when they have served their time, they will still have their job,” she said. “This will also allow them to earn a paycheck and be able to support their family while in jail."
"It will benefit everyone if an inmate is able to work, earn an income, rather than just sitting in jail for 90 days," he said.
Butler said candidates for the treatment program will be accessed on one-by-one basis.
“Everyone will undergo a risk assessment,” she said. “We’re not going to take someone who if out in the community could be a public safety risk,” she said.
The county board of supervisors has approved leasing a building at NSH for the residential treatment program.
Butler said it has not been decided if the county probation department will operate the programs or contract outside services.
Butler hopes to have the residential treatment program up and running within the next 12 to 16 months.
The program has received thumbs up from the county district attorney’s office.
“We are fully supportive of the idea and the program and have been part of the planning process with other county representatives,” Napa County District Attorney Gary Lieberstein wrote in an email.
“The offenders who will be housed at this facility will be individually screened to determine who are the most likely to benefit from the programs,” Lieberstein said. “The concept is consistent with the evidence-based programs that are shown to be effective to maximize resources and chances for successful outcome and less recidivism.”
Kay Patrick of Napa agrees.
“I have a good friend who was busted for drugs. He had a good, steady job when he was given time in jail,” Patrick said on Sunday while waiting for jail visiting hours to start.
“He lost his job because he couldn’t go to work," she added. "He couldn’t take care of his family -- they had to go live with his mom, they had to get food stamps.
"He still doesn’t have a job," she added. "And this was the first time he has ever been in trouble.”
The Napa County Department of Corrections took over the operation of the jail in 1975. Correctional officers are not sworn peace officers and are not armed.
All but three California counties, including Napa, jails are operated by the county sheriff’s department employing armed sworn peace officers.
Napa County jail is allowed 256 inmates at one time. This number fluctuates daily. As of March 13, there were 264, Vare said.
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