Orange County Blasted For Seeking Jail Expansion Over Alternatives to Incarceration

The County of Orange recently crowed about winning another court victory against opponents of expansion of Musick Jail in Irvine, but a new report from a state alliance seeking “decarceration” chastises the county for continuing to push for jail expansion as its prisoner population is dropping.


Irvine Loses Another Round in Court Trying to Stop the County's Expansion of Musick Jail

Inglewood-based Californians United for a Responsible Budget (CURB), a statewide alliance of more than 70 organizations working to end the expansion of prisons and jails and to reduce the number of prisoners in the state, released its fourth “Decarceration Report Card” that gave failing grades to each county analyzed.

Perhaps to show some differentiation between these counties, CURB broke them up by color. Yellow counties are planning to build new jails, although they are reducing their overall jail capacity and have some investments in alternatives to incarceration. Orange counties double-fail for pursuing jail expansion plans that are economically and socially costly, while either maintaining or increasing jail capacity and allocating few resources to alternatives to incarceration and offering little support for service provision through community-based organizations. Red counties triple-fail because they are pursuing multiple jail expansion plans, have little alternatives to incarceration programs available, and offer little support for service provision through community-based organizations.

Orange County is ranked a red county, according to CURB.

County of Orange: Triple Fail
Orange County Pretrial: 55.3%
Deaths in Custody: 100
Incarceration rate: 409.2
18.15% of the county's 2015-16 general fund is expected to be allotted to the Sheriff 's Department.
Day Reporting Center provides opportunity to earn GED certificates and develop employment and life skills. “Lasting Changes” is a 6 week pre-release program to begin discharge planning with wraparound services.
Project 1: Awarded $100 million in AB 900 Phase II for a 512 bed expansion.
Project 2: Awarded $80 million in SB 1022 to build 384 beds.
Project 3: Applying for $35.6 million in SB 863 funding to upgrade existing jail.

The number of prisoners has dropped in this county by nearly 22 percent since Proposition 47 took effect. The county received $100 million through AB 900 Phase II for a 512-bed expansion at James A. Musick Facility and broke ground. In addition, the county received $80 million through SB 1022 to construct a new standalone Type II facility with 384 beds at the Musick Facility. This facility would focus on classrooms and therapy rooms in addition to minimum and medium security. There has been component of the proposed design is that prisoners will have no direct contact with visitors. The new jail would opposition by the City of Irvine that led to multiple legal fights against the expansions, the latest legal challenge was rejected. This county is also requesting $35 million through SB 863 to increase treatment space at the Intake Release Center.

CURB recommendations: Close at least one of the Orange County jails and stop Phase II construction. Reduce the average number of stays in the local jails. End contract with ICE. Stop leasing beds to other counties.

Statewide, more than $2.2 billion of jail construction funding has been approved for local jail construction. Twenty-three counties are already building new jails. Five are building two or more jails. And 32 counties are applying for the current round of jail construction funding. Many of these new jail projects are being promoted as efforts to improve services in the jails, particularly mental health and substance use programming and gender- responsiveness needs, according to CURB.

“We know jails are not mental health treatment providers, and we know that black and brown communities are most impacted by jailing and the lack of services,” says Mark-Anthony Johnson of Dignity and Power Now in an email from CURB. “Counties need to strengthen and expand resources in the communities that are most criminalized.”

That is actually a trend across the country, according to Mauricio Najarro of Critical Resistance Oakland. “Californians are joining communities across the country in condemning the prioritization of policing and imprisonment as solutions to the problems faced by communities,” he says. “Real solutions lie in alternatives that don't tear families apart, such as bail reform, pre-trial diversion, and investing in community resources.”

Email: mc****@oc******.com. Twitter: @MatthewTCoker. Follow OC Weekly on Twitter @ocweekly or on Facebook!

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