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Letter: Don't Expand the Jail in Downtown Napa

Randolph Street resident Elizabeth McKinne is one of many Napans concerned about the prospect of expanding the county jail downtown. Supervisors will hear a report today on "location options" for the longtime lockup.

about the ’s plans for building a massive, were disappointed that public turnout for the June 7th meeting this summer was smaller than in January.

The County’s choice of holding the meeting at the beginning of the summer may have affected the public turnout. However, despite the lower attendance, public comments were still as strongly weighted as they had been at January’s public meeting.

The County’s recently-published summary and evaluation of the June meeting - that the comments were more balanced between those for and against - is not the way I remember it.

As I recall, only two people spoke in favor of rebuilding the jail downtown, though several County employees were there, presumably supporting the jail remaining in its current location.

It is disappointing that the County chose to place the on a summer while many residents are away on vacation and unable to attend the meeting.

I believe that as Napa residents learn more about the issue many will want to see a full exploration of all the variables involved in planning the jail, including weighing the appropriate site for its future location.

Also, there is a natural question that has arisen in thinking about the planning for a new jail: what will be done about 's criminal patients and future secure housing for them? That is one of many questions that have come to mind in examining the proposal for a new jail.

There are more questions than answers. A lot has changed since 2008 when the study plan was approved by the Supervisors. It may take additional time, but it would be prudent to reexamine the decision for the long-term good of all.

Napa the city is a big part of Napa the county. We are one. As citizens of Napa City, we hope the County will not blunder into saddling the with an enormous jail in the heart of a now-vital .

Elizabeth McKinne, Napa

Editor's note: "Location options" for the jail are on the . Public comment will be accepted prior to the discussion.

Tony Scott August 12, 2011 at 02:11 AM
Even if it is true that there are 168 full-time equivalents in the Corrections Department at the downtown jail, if the space was turned into retail/restaurant/residential/hotel - whatever - by a developer who wanted to take a chance on what is now one of the hottest tourist destination cities in the US (multiple articles in the Wall Street Journal, NY Times, the Wine Spectator, Travel & Leisure on the "rebirth" of Napa) - we'd see most if not all of the number of county workers replaced by private sector workers, plus we'd see an increase in economic activity (and related sales taxes and property taxes) - both directly and indirectly. When governments want to justify ridiculous expenditures such as building sports stadiums for rich team owners on the public dime, they do economic impact studies. No one has done that for this - because back in 2008 when this was being considered, Napa was frankly not a desirable place to set up a tourist-oriented business. That's all changed - just as the costs of acquiring land in the county has changed, and the requirement to house more criminals has changed. With the changes, I and other concerned citizens as simply asking the Supervisors to re-examine and rethink their approach, and to include all of the relevant facts and information - not just those that support their own position that they staked out three years ago.
Tony Scott August 12, 2011 at 02:18 AM
The buyer is Todd Zapolski - they are in contract, and his side is doing due diligence. Of course it could fall through - financing might not happen, they might find out something they didn't know - but Todd and his wife seem very positive about the potential of the deal, and are thinking and talking about a lot of very positive improvements to the property to make it an attractive destination for tourists and locals. Here is the article from the Register: http://napavalleyregister.com/news/local/town-center-sale-could-be-decided-in-october/article_f64011f8-c152-11e0-b506-001cc4c03286.html
Tony Scott August 12, 2011 at 02:22 AM
I met the person who is in contract on Town Center last weekend. The news was published in the Register. Regarding the new Prison (let's call it that - jails are for non-violent, short-term criminals, prisons will include felons - and the state mandate will push them here) - we have no choice in the matter. Either we build more prison cells, or we let criminals out. Saying that we don't have money for it may be a lose, lose deal, but I'd rather pay more for that than experience more crime on our streets. The jail, whether is rebuilt downtown or moved elsewhere, is slated for demolition. Why not let developers bid on the building and land, and see if we can raise money that way - maybe even enough to pay for a good part of the new jail construction and potentially increased operating costs? Even a paid parking lot would bring in revenues, let alone a real deal with someone who wants to turn the location into something of value.
Tony Scott August 12, 2011 at 03:18 AM
Louisa, I'd like to respectfully point out one more fallacy in your points above. You said: "Napa police officers who have to drive suspects to a jail outside of town for booking will be tied up for hours when they could be on the street." , implying that this would be a negative side effect caused by having an out of downtown jail. The reality is that police may spend hours off the street when they book a suspect - but the majority of this time happens regardless of where the jail is located. The time spent doing a booking will not change one iota whether the jail is downtown in its current location or at a new location. The only difference will be the added time it takes for the police to drive to the new location versus the current location. Even if we assume that all arrests in Napa are at or North of the current 3rd Street location, the differential in time according to Google Maps between the old jail and the proposed locations near the Sheriff's offices near the airport is 12 minutes each way. So, let's say an additional 25 minutes round trip. But how many arrests are there per day in Napa where suspects are brought to the jail? 4? 10? We need to multiply the average number of daily arrests that require booking at jail by the 25 minute round trip to find the actual true additional time burden on our city police. Including the full time spend - including booking time and report writing time - creates a fallacious and incorrect analysis of the cost.
Louisa Hufstader (Editor) August 12, 2011 at 04:21 AM
Yes, I heard you Tuesday.
Louisa Hufstader (Editor) August 12, 2011 at 03:05 PM
Tony, no offense, but your parsing is tendentious and your arguments, no matter how many ways and at how much length you repeat them, remain glaringly position-based. Let me try to explain, as I do _not_ have an entrenched position on the jail but am simply trying to report on the issue: Those weren't "my points," they were notes from the supervisors meeting. You were there too -- presumably to listen as well as to talk, so you must have heard Chief Melton say that when he worked in a community with an outside jail, he had "half of the shift in line on bookings" in the evening. The real fallacy (defined as a flaw in logic) is your insistence that having cops drive out of town will change the booking time "not one iota." Even using Star Trek transporter technology would take longer than that.
Tony Scott August 12, 2011 at 05:01 PM
Louisa, Yes, I do now remember hearing Chief Melton say that, and I apologize if I misinterpreted it a point you were advocating. But I did not say that the police would not spend more total time in the booking and transport of suspects if the jail were moved somewhere else - I said that the amount of time spent in the actual booking and report writing is the same regardless of where the jail is located. Transportation time is, as I pointed out, the real issue. Including time spent in the booking process would not be correct in an analysis of pros or cons of a location for the jail. But we absolutely do need to consider the added transport time and associated costs. I do believe it likely makes the most sense to have the jail rebuilt elsewhere, just as you have clearly stated that you believe it should be rebuilt downtown, but I'm open-minded to the alternative point of view. But we (our community) clearly don't have all the facts yet. I found a number of flaws in the analyses that have been used to create the cost-based argument for rebuilding a jail downtown. If decisions are made based on incorrect facts and analysis, we could make a big mistake financially. Does pointing this out really make me "tendentious" with "glaringly position-based arguments"? If I'm incorrect in any of my analyses of the costs that seem to have been left out or the overstatement of other costs, then I'm happy to admit it and accept it. I only hope that others will be as openminded.
Elizabeth McKinne August 12, 2011 at 05:18 PM
Louisa, I believe this forum gives the community an opportunity to share information in a longer format than is available in other, traditional media outlets. I think Tony is trying to inform the public in a fact-based, reasoned way. People will form their own opinions about where the jail should be built. Better that they have MORE information, details, and references than not. This is a fluid situation and deserves some real attention to details. The fact is, a jail will be built somewhere, and we all want it to be decided upon after thoughtful consideration. Some of us don't think that following a plan made in 2008, that is truly obsolete before one brick is laid, is the right way to go about spending millions of dollars and affecting so many. Can we all encourage the County as it begins a full exploration of the current variables, to make the best decision for the whole of its community?
Louisa Hufstader (Editor) August 12, 2011 at 05:35 PM
Elizabeth, absolutely! Tony, thanks for your email and kind words, but Napa Patch is all about transparency and also I just don't have time to carry on side conversations in email. Here's my point: An opinion is not the same thing as an entrenched position, any more than a clearly-labeled opinion piece is the same thing as an article. My "Strictly My Opinion" opinion column reflects just that, my opinion in January. Reasoning, facts and events are all things that can affect my opinion. But I've never considered it my position. I have nothing to gain or lose, wherever the jail is located -- unlike Phil Aved at Shoes on First and other downtown merchants, who face a loss of steady weekday customers. On their behalf, as well as my family's, I have to honestly say that I'm just not convinced by the Great River City Tourist Destination argument for moving the jail. What, where and when is the payoff, to regular Napa working people like me and Phil, for spending this extra money? Also, I think it's stone cold-hearted to suggest that inmates awaiting trial or sentencing should have to see their lawyers and families only via closed-circuit TV. I'll have to admit a bias toward human rights, because my jaw dropped in shock when I heard that. So yes, my opinion is open to persuasion, but I'm not hearing any. L
Tony Scott August 12, 2011 at 06:06 PM
Louisa, If you have a clearly stated position ("entrenched" or not) on an issue, then it is impossible to report on the facts related to that issue without bias. If you can't accept that there may be flaws in the arguments presented by the county's consultants on costs (both overstated on one hand, understated or not stated at all in other cases), then you are not open to "persuasion". I've asked for counters to the flaws I believe are in the study and have yet to hear a single thing I've pointed out as being incorrect. How can we know it will be extra money - or not - if we don't have accurate analyses? That has nothing at all to do with the "Great River City Tourist Destination argument". I do happen to believe that economic development - which is clearly happening - will increase employment for all in Napa. That would be a good thing, don't you think, and clearly benefit "regular Napa working people" - because they would have jobs. I don't know where you got the idea that inmates would have to see their lawyers and families only through closed-circuit TV. No one suggested that at all. Any new jail would of course have visiting rooms for families and lawyers. What was suggested - and it used in many courts around the country - was that videoconferencing could be used in place of "in the courtroom" activities for basic hearings on procedural issues and initial arraignments. This in no way would mean an abrogation of prisoner's human rights.
Elizabeth McKinne August 12, 2011 at 06:06 PM
Hi Louisa, There is a third option under consideration which deserves the same amount of consideration as the other two. A split operation, with the downtown location for booking and space for those going to court immediately, and possibly even housing for short-term offenders, and those sentenced for longer terms, like those coming from the State prison system, to be located elsewhere, deserves a careful look, too. Those State prisoners will have different requirements from the County ones, as stated by Chief Melton at the Supervisors' meeting on Tuesday. They require additional facilities for re-education and a larger exercise yard than short-term offenders. Then there is the question of helping all concerned with the incarceration of the criminally insane currently at Napa State. We know that needs a better solution than the one in place right now.
Louisa Hufstader (Editor) August 12, 2011 at 06:21 PM
Craig Smith said, in public comment at the supervisors meeting Tuesday, that "videoconferencing" for visitors could cut down transportation costs. I think it's grim. That's my opinion. But if it works, okay. I don't know where you are getting all this "of course" and "clearly" stuff from, though. You acknowledge you can't get your questions answered, so how do you know any of it? It's nice that you believe that removing the downtown jail with >100 full time employees will create jobs for the rest of us. When and how, please? And what kinds of jobs? Retail does not pay much. Your lecture to me on bias is a little old-school. Napa Patch is all about transparency and we admit that everyone has a point of view. I put mine out for all to see, in my editor's biography that includes religion and political views. Why shouldn't I have an opinion as much as the next Napan? But it's still not my position. Position-based discussions are so 20th century. I take an interest-based approach: I want to know what is in this for me and my neighbors. It's not like I am in love with option 1. I know the jail is ugly. I've been in almost every part of it over my 11 years reporting in Napa. If somebody can convince me that option 2 or option 3 is best for the whole community and not just the elite, I will shift my opinion. Not hearing it, though.
Elizabeth McKinne August 12, 2011 at 06:52 PM
Hi Louisa, One more thought: questioning the relocation of the jail is not just about tourists and rich people. It is about good urban planning for the entire community. No one is suggesting that the County Government offices go away, but I do think we should have a chance to at least discuss the rebuilding of the jail in this location. Remember, the County does not have to ask for a vote of the people on this matter. Legally, the County has a "sovereign" right to build whatever they want on County property as long they have the money in hand and don't need to submit it as a bond issue that would require a vote from the public. These public discussions, then, in newspapers and at public meetings, are our only way of engaging the County government in discussions about the local of the jail. Fortunately, they have been helpful in facilitating two public meetings, the ones in January and in June, which we appreciate, as well as the accessibility to related document information in their Government website. It would be interesting to know where the real downtown business related to the jail comes from. Is it from the families who are visiting the prisoners? Are the prison employees allowed out during lunch breaks so that they might contribute to the downtown economy? The attorneys? Remember, county workers are not going away. In fact, the County could gain office space if they could reuse the footprint of the jail for other facilities, which they also have plans to build.
PHIL Aved August 12, 2011 at 06:54 PM
Elizabeth, I think that may be the worst of both worlds. We lose the redevelopment and income that might be derived from the tear down of the old jail. We incur the cost of the new jail and end up doubling the number of staff needed to handle both facilities. The construction is a one time cost but the staffing is on going and add a minimum of fifty additional staff requires an additional 2.5 Million + a year. That number might double depending on the number of inmates. Tony, "that economic development - which is clearly happening," hasn't it's still a dream that's years off, there is still the impact on merchants facing jack hammers and closed roads or do you believe the old Jail will come down without disruption to the New East end or the Town Center demolition will have no affect on 1st Street traffic or existing business? I also believe the city core is in play but I believed that in 1986 and I still do I just wish they would play faster as I'm getting older faster.
PHIL Aved August 12, 2011 at 07:01 PM
Video conferencing is a can of worms. Any electronic transmission is subject to hacking and could cast a shadow on attorney client privilege.
Elizabeth McKinne August 12, 2011 at 07:14 PM
Hi Phil, I am not advocating the "third way" - only getting it out there for full disclosure in our discussions. The County considers this option it in their exploration of the jail's rebuilding. Yes, it, too, is fraught with problems and complications. Few think otherwise. However, even the Supervisors questioned the numbers prepared by staff in its own reports, so let's wait and see what the reevaluations are regarding staffing requirements, and everything else for that matter, before closing the book on that option. About construction, the FACT is that one way or another, the County will NOT be retaining the current jail. It considers it - both the older and newer buildings - to be obsolete, so don't go into this hoping you can save the existing structures. And let's not forget the Master Plan the County presented for the entire downtown County "Super-block" including the building presented for the Sullivan block. Believe me, I certainly do not relish the idea of the kind of heavy, protracted construction that would be required to build a modern jail/ prison. It will be a trial (pun intended!) for anyone who lives or works in the downtown area, not just a deterrent for tourists visiting the area. The entire proposal needs reexamination. We all want good buildings, smart use of public funds and an outcome that solves a problem while enhancing an important neighborhood that is, let's not forget, the County seat for Napa County as well as the heart of Napa the city.
Tony Scott August 13, 2011 at 12:05 AM
Economic development is clearly happening. In the last year, three new restaurants have opened in the Riverfront, all with multi-million revenues. New retail is opening in the Riverfront. Norman Rose and Oenotri have opened in the last year or so as well. Any visitor to Oxbow comparing traffic this year to last year should be able to see a very distinct uptick this year. That's all development. The old jail is going to come down in two of the three scenarios suggested by the Supervisors - either building a new one in the current location, or a new one outside of town. The disruption to business from demolition and construction will be much more if the choice is made to tear down the current jail and build a new one in the same location.
Tony Scott August 13, 2011 at 12:09 AM
If you are worried about that, then we should eliminate telephones and email as well, shouldn't we? But wait, shouldn't we also then eliminate written communications in letters, as they can be opened? Encrypted transmissions are VERY difficult to "hack" and decrypt. The NSA has trouble doing so with supercomputers for strong secure encryption.
Tony Scott August 13, 2011 at 12:22 AM
I'm not sure what Craig's Smith comment has to do with this - I was quoting the consultants hired by the County directly from their report. They are the ones who said using videoconferencing for pre-trial motions, arraignments, and other non-critical matters could eliminate 23% of the associated travel. They - nor I - did not mention using videoconferencing for visitors. The only question I can't get answered yet is how many full-time equivalent employee the Corrections Department has working at the County Jail. All of my other points are answered and come from directly from the report to the Supervisors made by their consultants. The facts according to their own report and admission, are that they: - Did not include costs to build a new parking structure - Used 2008 prices for land acquisition. Both Supervisor Caldwell and I pointed out properties near the Sheriff's station being offered at costs multi millions below the costs used by the consultants. - Did not include costs for temporary housing for inmates while the current jail is being torn down and rebuilt. - Did not provide any estimate for alternative uses for the land currently occupied by the jail - either sale or lease. All of the above have a huge impact on cost. If a decision is being made based on costs, they don't have all the information (or are using inaccurate information) to make that decision. That's not just an issue for the elite - it is for everyone who pays taxes.
Tony Scott August 13, 2011 at 12:40 AM
I guess I am a little old school. When I took journalism classes and wrote for newspapers, there was a clear line between reporting and opinion. I'm all for you having an opinion - which is what I said in my email to you. But if you have an opinion, it is hard to claim that your reportage is absolutely free of bias. I frankly prefer your way - letting people know who you are and where you stand, as everyone is biased, and journalists are no different from anyone else. Why try to create a differential then between reportage and opinion on your blog/website? I don't think you need to do that. I believe gaining an understanding of the real facts is important in any discussion: "interest based" or "position based", regardless of whether they are "so 20th century" or not. If we don't have the facts right, then any discussions and decisions made based on the incorrect information are going to be fundamentally flawed. I would think most people would like to see fully costed-out alternatives with all cost and revenue factors appropriately applied before making decisions to spend nearly $100 million dollars. I can not form an opinion until these key factors that have been left out of the report - by the consultants own admission - are included in the calculations. I guess I'm a bit "old school" about that too - I like to have accurate numbers and facts to go on when forming an opinion or making a decision, and don't blindly accept what government officials tell me.
PHIL Aved August 13, 2011 at 12:42 AM
Tony, don't kill the messenger tell it to Wikileaks. NO ELECTRONIC COMMUNICATION IS 100% IMMUNE. Conversations between lawyers and clients are not written down, taped or other wise recorded and the county isn't at NSA level. Also you can read my emails any time you like as can anyone who works inside for AOL or COMCAST. But I still love ya.
PHIL Aved August 13, 2011 at 12:59 AM
Tony, WOW I'm impressed I escaped school with a diploma by the skin of my teeth and now I'm debating issues with a learned scholar? I'm dyslexic and before spell check I couldn't even write home for money. The facts about cost, staff and alternatives are occluded perhaps by design but there are holes in the numbers and therein lies the rub the total cost and continued cost are a real concern, the outcome will be what ever it is in spite of valid objection and without much over site behind closed doors just like our many governments are doing things today. I'm really glad this happened while I had some time off. So now lets talk about the "Skating rink" that's to be built behind the beauty school off second where the parking lot now stands.
Louisa Hufstader (Editor) August 13, 2011 at 02:55 PM
Hey Phil, I work for AOL and I promise you I cannot read your emails. I can't even get through my own in-box, but that's another sad story!
Tony Scott August 13, 2011 at 04:00 PM
Phil, I'm sorry to have been flippant in my response. Please accept my apologies for "shooting the messenger" :-) However, any conversation between a lawyer and their client is automatically considered privileged, and can not be admitted as evidence in court. Conversations between lawyers and clients are written down all the time, and lawyers and clients conduct communication by email all the time. Secure video transmission and encrypted digital communications isn't very difficult to implement - there are plenty of very inexpensive tools for that available, which make any such communications almost impossible to decrypt unless one is using supercomputers - and even then it is very, very difficult and time consuming. But the key point of using videoconferencing was not to provide a means of communication between lawyers and their clients who are incarcerated, but to provide a way to have basic hearings, arraignments, and other procedural court matters handled without having to transport prisoners to and from a courthouse, which incurs costs and security risks whether it is going 100 yards down a hallway or 100 miles. By the way, I believe the big brouhaha with Wikileaks recently had nothing to do with hacking - someone downloaded all those documents and gave them to Wikileaks - no different from the Pentagon Papers back in the 70's.
Tony Scott August 13, 2011 at 04:13 PM
Phil, I certainly don't think of myself as a learned scholar, but I was fortunate enough to have had scholarships to help pay for school in spite of my also being dyslexic (thank goodness today for spell check - I wish we had it back then!) Every concerned citizen should get involved in questioning what their government is doing with OUR tax dollars. Those of us who pay taxes work hard to earn a living and pay the taxes, and we have a right to ask tough questions about how the elected officials and non-elected bureaucrats are spending the money we provide them. Those who don't pay taxes and only consume services also have a right to ask how those services are provided to make sure they are in the best possible way. If we just roll over and accept what they say every time they want to spend money on something - whether it is a good idea or a harebrained one - then we deserve the government - and results - that we get, and shouldn't complain afterwards. You're a smart guy, you run a business, and you know what it means to watch your dollars, make a payroll and work to a budget. Most government officials have no conception of that - all they are focused on is the spending side of the equation, and for them, more and bigger is almost always better, rather than thinking creatively about solutions that might work just as effectively with smaller government and less money. It's up to we the citizens to make sure they think outside of their boxes as much as we can.
PHIL Aved August 13, 2011 at 05:05 PM
Tony, Amen to that brother. I remember the days of the quiet majority and if we continue to remain silent we stand to lose everything. No one deserves a government that can only agree on salary increases for them selves. I hear a lot of stuff about taxing the rich while we only tax the poor ie: SSI deductions stop at $250,000, why? Tax all earned income. Better I stay of subject then wax philosophically so once again, where is the money to build all this going to come from? Everyone have a great weekend!
Tony Scott August 13, 2011 at 06:21 PM
Actually, SSI is capped much lower - at $106,000 or so. But benefits are capped too. If we raise the cap on the tax, we would need to raise the maximum benefits. Medicare tax is uncapped on W-2 income, however.
Tony Scott August 13, 2011 at 06:37 PM
But generally speaking, I don't think more taxes should always be the first answer - better and more efficient government and thoughtful spending are not considered enough. This jail discussion appears to be a perfect example of government deciding something to increase their size and power, and then creating studies to justify their positions. As Mark Twain said, there are three kinds of lies : Lies, Damned Lies, and Statistics. Government studies all too often use the last of those lies to justify their actions, and hope the public will be confused by their detailed analyses so that their conclusions can't be questioned. "See - we hired consultants to do a study, and they are experts, so we have to agree with their conclusions. It was just by happenstance that their conclusions support our position - the fact that we are paying them a lot of money has nothing to do with it, of course!"
Louisa Hufstader (Editor) September 13, 2011 at 12:35 AM
Hi everybody -- I didn't mean to neglect this thread for so long, but a lot has been happening in other Napa arenas. Wanted to let you know that I am turning over the jail coverage to Marsha Dorgan, veteran Napa crime reporter, whose first report is here: http://napa.patch.com/articles/whats-the-answer-to-jail-overcrowding It includes our very first Napa Patch poll and I hope you will take part. Thank you so much.
Barry Ollice March 20, 2012 at 12:54 PM
Maybe if we didn't lock up people for every little petty offense,the jail wouldn't be so full.NCDC has a perfectly functioning home arrest system that they refuse to use because they bring in more money from the state by keeping people jailed.If memory serves me;didn't we just finish an expansion in '03?I know!Let's just make more laws so we can lock up more people,so we can generate enough revenue to build the new jail!

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