The county board of supervisors is pushing to approve a plan that would allow for expansion of the Riverside County jails.
The sheriff’s department has said they are quickly reaching capacity. There is simply not enough beds to house all of the inmates. In addition, the state may soon transfer additional realignment prisoners. The California prisoner realignment has mandated that certain detainees be transferred from state facilities to county jails in order to serve out the remainder of their sentences.
The short term goal is to add between 400 and 1,600 beds to the Larry D. Smith Correctional Facility. The supervisors have said the sheriff is telling them that approximately 4,000 more beds will be needed by 2020. It is further estimated that an additional 9,500 beds will need to be added before 2050.
Riverside County jails have been charged with addressing both short term and long term goals. Proponents say this is needed in order to preserve public safety and security.
Others have said the county should be placing a greater focus on programs that will reduce recidivism rates. Adding more beds, they said, is not the answer. It is just a quick-fix band-aid that does not address the underlying problem.
Those who advocate adding beds to the Riverside County jails point out that the realignment is one of the area’s biggest problems. Initially it was believed that realigned prisoners would not serve more than 36 months in local facilities. Some inmates, though, are going to be detained for more than a decade.
The sheriff’s department has reportedly confirmed that more than 7,000 low-level local offenders have been released early since the realignment took effect. This was due to overcrowding and lack of adequate housing. They believe current problem needs to be tackled from all sides.
A plan that would add about 2,000 beds to the Southwest Detention Center is also being considered. A mid-county jail is also being evaluated. The mayor of Palm Springs has gone on the record stating he would lead a very vocal opposition to that plan should it begin to move forward.
If the $300 million facility gains approval it would be constructed on a 200-acre plot of land in Whitewater. It could house as many as 4,800 inmates at completion.
The supervisors have said they will weigh the pros and cons of all options prior to making any final decisions.