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A female prisoner combs the hair of another inmate in the overcrowded women's jail in Redwood...
REDWOOD CITY — The county may be looking toward building a bigger, better jail to address its ballooning inmate population, but interim solutions to help current inmates must also be implemented, the San Mateo County Civil grand jury said Thursday.
This marks the fourth report that the 19-member citizen watchdog body has issued in as many years decrying inadequate jail facilities and urging the county to do something about its "severely overcrowded" jails.
"It's been around for a while," said Stephan Freer, the foreman of the 2006-07 grand jury, which issued the report and recently finished its term.
The report again points out that the dilapidated Women's Correctional Center, an antiquated facility, was housing 160 to 220 percent of its state-rated capacity of 84 inmates in late 2006. Maguire Correctional Facility, the men's jail, is operating at about 130 percent of its 688 inmate-rated capacity, the report said.
"The Women's Correctional Center is outdated and chronically overcrowded. It must be replaced," the report said. "At this time, a replacement facility is still in the conceptual stageand probably years away from occupancy. Meanwhile, the intolerable conditions persist. Interim solutions such as alternative housing, alternative sentencing and accelerated re-entry into society are desperately needed and should be promptly pursued."
San Mateo County Board of Supervisors Vice President Adrienne Tissier said an interim solution could
include modular space at the women's jail site east of Highway 101 to house programs such as drug rehabilitation, GED tutoring or parenting classes.
"I don't think we can wait. We need some interim measures," Tissier said. "If you really look at it, we could be talking years before a new facility is built."
Tissier is a member of the county's Jail Crowding and Facilities Task Force, which has brought all of the players in corrections together, from the district attorney to Correctional Health Services — to review the system and develop solutions.
"There's certainly an impressive task force looking into this," Freer said. "I would hope something, eventually, will actually come out of that."
San Mateo County Sheriff Greg Munks said his office was looking at interim capacity and program solutions.
It could involve temporarily reopening the North County Jail or the Men's Honor Camp in La Honda or sending inmates to other counties. About the only space left at Maguire, Munks said, would be a tent in one of the recreation yards.
"We've literally filled all our options with the existing facility," Munks said. "At some point it's not safe to keep stuffing people into it." He said his office was also working with the courts to employ more electronic monitoring for those convicted of nonviolent misdemeanors.
According to the report, the Sheriff's Office has proposed that the county build a new facility to house minimum- and medium-security sentenced inmates of both sexes — focused on treatment, rehabilitation and re-entry — to decrease recidivism rates. All un-sentenced and maximum-security inmates would be housed at Maguire.
"The proposed, new, post-sentencing jail facility to house both men and women, with its emphasis on phased re-entry into society, is a promising solution," the report said.
The idea builds on a report released in April assessing the needs of the women's jail. The report, requested by the Board of Supervisors, recommended constructing a minimum security 316-bed women's justice center devoted to rehabilitation, job training, parenting and aiding inmates after release.
A similar needs assessment report on Maguire is due to be released this month or next.
The grand jury also reviewed youth detention facilities, including the new Youth Services Center (which replaced Hillcrest Juvenile Hall), the Margaret J. Kemp Camp for Girls and Camp Glenwood, the boys' camp in La Honda.
"The juvenile detention facilities are well managed, with an efficient and dedicated staff, but Camp Glenwood is in need of maintenance," the report said.
"It's a little outdated," Freer added. "Nothing horrible stood out or anything like that. It's just an older facility."