2016-05-06 / Front Page

$55M in state funding puts new jail on track

Facility for mentally ill, physically disabled
By Hector Gonzalez


PUBLIC SAFETY—Ventura County has received $55 million from the state to go toward building a corrections facility for inmates who are physically disabled and mentally ill. 
Courtesy of the Ventura County Sheriff’s Office PUBLIC SAFETY—Ventura County has received $55 million from the state to go toward building a corrections facility for inmates who are physically disabled and mentally ill. Courtesy of the Ventura County Sheriff’s Office San Francisco’s loss has turned into a gain for Ventura County’s plans to build a new jail facility to house mentally ill and physically disabled inmates.

Because the Bay Area county dropped out of a competitive grant program, local officials now have the final chunk of money in place for the $61-million jail project.

At its last meeting in April, the Board of State and Community Corrections voted to award Ventura County an additional $29.4-million grant for the new jail.

Along with a $25.6-million grant the board awarded in November, the new funding fulfills the county’s original grant request of $55 million for the jail project. The grant comes from a state program for financing adult criminal justice facilities.

Ventura County’s Board of Supervisors has already approved $6.1 million in funding for the facility.

Counties across the state applied for a share of $500 million provided through the state program for new jail construction.

The proposed projects were ranked, and San Francisco County’s $80-million jail project topped the list of grant winners in the large county category, edging out Ventura County’s project, which received only part of the amount it had requested.

On March 23, however, San Francisco County officials formally notified the state board that the county was declining the award.

That put Ventura County next in line for full funding of its grant request, according to the board’s agenda documents.

Housing for mentally ill and physically disabled inmates at the Ventura County Main Jail is inadequate, officials say.

At the lockup in Ventura, officials have had to house about 100 of those inmates on a separate floor that was designed for inmates without disabilities.

Although no plans for the new jail have been drawn up yet, Cmdr. Ron Nelson, who oversees Todd Road Jail, told the Acorn in February that the proposed 64-bed facility would be a single-story structure, a feature meant to prevent suicidal prisoners from jumping from a second story.

The new facility, which would be built next to the Todd Road Jail in Santa Paula, would also be designed so that mental health and medical care could be readily provided to inmates without guards having to move them to a different part of the jail for services, as is the case at the main lockup, Nelson said.

He said the local jail system’s growing population of inmates with serious mental problems is fed by a state penal system that offers few alternatives besides locking up the mentally ill when they commit crimes.

“There’s definitely a need for a new facility,” the commander said in February.

Return to top