Relocation of County Jail Back on the Agenda

The ongoing controversy over the location of a new county jail goes on a little longer.


The relocation of Napa County Department of Corrections from its present site on Coombs Street, adjacent to the criminal courthouse, is a hot topic for Napans and government alike.

On Tuesday, the Napa County Board of Supervisors agreed to look into moving the present jail site to a different location in Napa County, approving by unanimous vote a staff investigation of a new location outside of city limits.

A report summarizing three options for expanding the jail capacity of Napa County, created by CGL Companies for the Napa County Exective's Office, was presented to the Board. The 34 page document is attached to this article as a PDF.

The new facility envisioned is a 366 bed facility, capable of expanding to 526 beds, according to Napa County Department of Corrections Director Lenard Vare.

Currently the jail has a bed capacity of 264, he said.

“The plan is to move the jail within a 10 to 15 mile radius from where it is now. At this time we have no specific sites,” said Vare.

“It’s still in the works as to which sites we will be considering,” he said.

Vare said the time frame from choosing a site and building a location could be from three to five years.

“This type of proposal doesn’t happen over night. There is the planning, architect plans, permits and state regulations to go through,” he said.

Vare said the new site would target a larger piece of land in order that more facilities could be built to engage more inmate programs.

“We want room to have out patient programs, educational and rehab services.”

Vare is also in favor of building honor farms — a facility to house very low risk offenders, who would be kept at the facility, but able to attend programs that teach a skill, education, and pursue employment.

Napa County District Attorney Gary Lieberstein supports a new location away from downtown.

“I have been advocating this (moving the jail) for years on different levels. I believe we need a downtown facility to keep inmates awaiting pre-trial and other court proceedings,” he said. “We have to have programs for people who are in custody so they come out better than when they went in.”

Although local county officials and law enforcement have their opinions, the public also has their views.

“I really want to see it moved out of downtown. It’s too small to accommodate future inmates, and we need to do something now while we can,” said Edward Neely of Napa.

“I don’t think a jail facility in the middle of downtown is very conducive to our tourism, which is Napa’s bread and butter.”

Harry Tedmonde, also of Napa, disagrees.

“The jail should be some place that is easily accessible to everyone who needs it,” he said. “Some people may not be able to drive to the jail to see their family or anything else they need to do,” he said.

“It’s just a jail. It doesn’t look like an prison camp. It’s close, it’s accessible — leave well enough alone.”

Napa County Chief Probation Officer Mary Butler is concerned that the probation department will have the space at a new jail to provide officers and their clients with the services they need.

“We need to have office space to be able to work with our clients and probation officers,” Butler said.

Napa County Chief Probation Officer interim Ron Abernathy believes the cost of construction of a new jail will be offset by reduction in staffing costs.

“Operating two jails (downtown and another facility) could cost two and half times of the actual construction cost of a new jail,” he said.

Abernathy favors a single story jail. “It eliminates having to take inmates from floor to floor, and cuts down on the amount of security needed,” he said.

“If the jail is moved from downtown to a more rural location, it will allow more space for the county to build a horizontal building rather than a vertical one,” he said. “It makes more sense to me.”

What do you think? Add your suggestions and intelligent arguments in the Comments section below.

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Unfiltered Steve Simoneau November 15, 2012 at 05:03 PM
I would actually have to agree with Gary Lieberstein about keeping a smaller facility downtown adjacent to the courthouse for unsentenced inmates and a rural facility for inmates serving their sentence. This keeps the cost and risk of transport to a minimum. With Napa's current rate of growth and immigration, as well as the State's "Send 'em back to County" solution, it's wise to plan a rural facility with capacity to expand. There should also be vocational and educational programs available because you have no hope for rehabilitation by simply locking someone in a box.
J. Roland Wagner November 15, 2012 at 06:29 PM
This is not our first "new jail". Those that disregard the past are bound to repeat its mistakes.
Kristina D. November 15, 2012 at 09:21 PM
What a great idea, having a rural farm type facility to house the inmates! Talk about a win/win situation, the inmates can tend a garden, farm animals and other agricultural activities, which could be used to feed the inmates, and they could also be learning new skills to use toward employment. How about the Napa Pipe location? It's far enough away from the tourists (except for Meritage) yet close enough for those to take the bus to see their incarcerated friends/family. Having it downtown right next to all the fine dining locations that draw tourists is quite odd and possibly disconcerting to those out of towners who are aware that the jail is right there. Having a "staging area" for those awaiting trial/sentencing is a good idea too.
Art Morris November 16, 2012 at 05:27 AM
The only reason they are talking about moving the jail is due to the success of the Napa Mill. They are afraid that the jail is not conducive to what tourist want downtown. The jail property is also very valuable due to the development of Napa Mill and they probably want to sell off the property to the highest bidding developer. What cracked me up was the comment in the story about how the costs of building the jail would be offset by "reduction in staffing costs." Let's see: new jail costing hundreds of millions of dollars offset by the wages of people making $20/hour. For a $500M jail, that would mean 25,000,000 man-hours in wages or 12,019 years worth of wages for one person! Where's the nearest open-mike night for this comedy show? If they do move it, move it to Napa Pipe or better yet, the Gasser property behind the firehouse and new theater.


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