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Locals Speak Out on Jail Location

Napa residents express their concerns about the location of the county’s only lockup.

For years, Napa County has been wrestling with the recurrent problem of .

And things could soon get worse: A requiring local jails to keep prisoners sentenced for up to three years, rather than the traditional one year, is expected to bring an influx of additional prisoners to the .

One proposal is to build a new facility, away from downtown, big enough to house an expanded jail population.   

Napa Patch has asked several Napa residents for their thoughts on the prospect of .

“I think moving the jail to a new location is not a good move. It will cost a tremendous amount of money to do that,” said Steve Stills. “And what would they do with the existing jail?”

“No, no, no,” said Kathryn Miller. “Right now it’s convenient for the families of the people in jail.

“A lot of those people don’t have transportation, and they can walk to the jail,” Miller said. “It’s something I hope they think long and hard about before coming to a decision.”

George Lenson feels just the opposite: “I think it would be good to have the jail closer to the and not right smack in downtown where all the tourists can see it,” he said.

“Tourists, one of Napa County’s top sources of revenue, don’t like to see something negative like a jail right in the middle of downtown, especially so close to the new businesses along the river on Main Street,” Lenson said.

Maddie Smith would like to see the jail population decrease: “I don’t think building more jails to house more criminals is the answer. We need programs and to educate the public so they don’t take the wrong path, make poor choices and end up in the criminal justice system,” she said.

Lake Berryessa resident Julie Colbert is concerned about the cost of moving the jail.

“I guess in a perfect world we wouldn’t need jails. But of course, that’s not going to happen,” she said. “I imagine building a new jail at a different location would be extremely costly — money that could be put to use somewhere else where it is really needed, like finding jobs for the unemployed.”

Gary Lieberstein said in an e-mail, “I do not believe that a viable opinion is to move the jail entirely out of downtown, and I would not support such an option.”

Lieberstein said his objections are attorneys’ access to their clients and the need to transport the inmates to court and public safety issues in doing so.

“(Now) these concerns are non-existent,” he said: Currently, the jail is adjacent to the . Inmates scheduled to appear in court are transported from the jail to the courthouse via an underground tunnel connecting the two buildings; they are never out in public.

Instead of keeping all inmates in the county jail, Lieberstein advocates a minimum-security “honor farm” at a location other than downtown.

“These would be prisoners who are assessed at a low risk for violence and can be managed at a less secure setting than the downtown jail,” he wrote.

“Possible sites would include land near the sheriff’s department or on the campus.”

Lieberstein said, “Our ultimate goal must be the public first ... and to have persons sentenced to jail serve the term they were sentenced to serve.”

John Sensenbaugh September 13, 2011 at 02:00 PM
I agree with Maddie --- Build it and they will come. Inmates that is. It is far cheaper to educate and train people than to incarcerate them after a crime has been committed. Also, the people complaining about how the jail looks next to new stores and restaurants remind me of the people who complain about an airport after they build their house next to one. Come on folks, you knew it was there. It is much more "green" to not be transporting inmates back and forth from a south county facility to downtown and it is far more "green" to adapt an existing facility than to start from scratch. Finally, it's my understanding that remodeling our downtown jail is the least costly alternative. In an era of diminishing resources, that should cinch the deal for the decision makers.
Louisa Hufstader (Editor) September 13, 2011 at 02:15 PM
Marsha also interviewed Police Chief Rich Melton (whose perspective appears not that different from Maddie's) and Corrections Director Lenard Vare: http://napa.patch.com/articles/whats-the-answer-to-jail-overcrowding
LARRY September 13, 2011 at 03:30 PM
Build a min sec farm by the sherrifs office. Those not sentenced stay in town. At the farm let them help train dogs for different needs clients. Have them grow their own veggies. Gives them something to do other than think of different ways to screw someone. LARRY
Paul Marotta September 13, 2011 at 10:18 PM
Keep it right where it is. We NEED to have this right in our midst to remind us that there is a much larger issue. Why does the US have the highest incarceration rate in the developed world? Why such a disproportionate number of black and brown inmates? Yesterday's Patch quoted a Bay Area news report that says violent crime in CA is at the lowest rate since 1968. Do we see a connection here? I suggest repealing failed polices such as "three strikes" and decriminilizing most drug use (could you imagine if alcohol were illegal in Napa?!). We have it in our power to build a society that does NOT see prison building as an economic stimulus.
Nekutik September 13, 2011 at 10:59 PM
I am a student, and I have always thought that it is very ironic that the jail is right in front of the very expensive Main st. stores and restaurants. I don't think that building more jails is the solution, instead they should concentrate in expanding support programs that aid people whom have made wrong choices due to circumsatnces we may not know. Stop treating them like criminals and more like people, maybe that way our community will improve more. Stop worrying so much about this jail problem and about the tourists--there are more important things to worry about, such as funding for education. "What you focus on expands" and if we keep focusing upon jails and criminals, that is what we are going to get. --Peace.
John K. Ruch September 14, 2011 at 04:08 AM
The local prison population issue is going to get worse, not better. Remember that back in May SCOTUS ruled that California must reduce the state prison population by 30,000. Seems the state is not able to incarcerate all our prisoners in state prisons without violating their constitutional rights against cruel and unusual punishment. While the state has a couple years to comply, California has one of, if not the highest recidivism rate in the country-over half of all prisoners go back to jail within two years. Get ready folks! (http://www.cdcr.ca.gov/reports_research/Offender_Information_Services_Branch/Annual/RECID2/RECID2d2005.pdf) Like Paul says, state residents need to ask themselves if they really feel it is necessary to apply three strikes to non-violent criminals and those convicted of minor drug offenses. You can’t have it both ways-you can’t want to lock all these people up AND not want to pay for it (about $47,000.00 a prisoner/year back in 2009). If you do not like looking at the jail while waiting for your table at Morimoto then pony up. Napa residents don’t even want to pay a half cent sales tax to widen the death strip through Jameson Canyon-how likely is it they will want to pay to move the jail? Then again, maybe they could move the jail into the old Copia building….
Cathy Gumina Odom September 14, 2011 at 04:05 PM
Well if we are getting 2000 inmates from Sacramento, where are they going to go? We will need more local law enforement and probation here. Who is going to pay for that ? I'm concerned about my family's safety. I don't think we are adequately staffed to take on more inmates here.
Louisa Hufstader (Editor) September 14, 2011 at 05:05 PM
Hi Cathy -- Please don't worry, we're not getting 2,000 inmates from Sacramento! The new realignment law means Napa County won't be able to send away to state prison any more locals convicted of non-serious, non-violent and non-sexual crimes with sentences of three years or less. But folks already in the state pen are not covered by the new law.
Ed Reichstein September 14, 2011 at 07:01 PM
Very simple. "Keep it out of town".
Louisa Hufstader (Editor) October 25, 2011 at 04:41 PM
Jail population update: http://napa.patch.com/articles/county-deals-with-convicted-criminals-doing-time-locally

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