Stop the Main Jail Expansion Project

Sacramento County Board of Supervisors

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We believe that the majority of the Sacramento County Board of Supervisors know by now that the Mays v. Sacramento consent decree does not require a new jail building. The plan to build a “Correctional Health and Mental Health Facility” is severely misguided, and we urge the Board of Supervisors to cancel the plan on Wednesday, March 10th. We call upon the Board to acknowledge that a new jail annex is: not the only option to meet the consent decree, not a cost effective option, and least beneficial for improving the welfare of the 3,328 persons who are incarcerated in Sacramento County jails.

This expansion project is a false promise; it does not remove the fundamental and urgent need for measurable policy and organizational culture change inside the jail system. These changes require meeting hundreds of consent decree requirements related to medical, mental health, and suicide prevention issues. As of January 2021, more than a year after federal approval of the consent decree, the county has not fully complied with any of the mental health provisions, none of the suicide prevention provisions, and only 5% of medical provisions. The Board of Supervisors should be focused on organizational leadership structures and accountability, to ensure that Adult Correctional Health, UC Davis Psychiatric Services, and the Sheriff’s Department are undergoing the necessary changes to meet their consent decree requirements.

A new jail annex will not meet the consent decree. In fact, this option will likely lead to further human suffering and more lawsuits. The Main Jail Annex would not bring the County into compliance with the Mays consent decree. Assuming the project will include 100-150 new mental health beds, the new building would only accommodate roughly 5% of the 55% of the jail population currently living with mental illness, and not until 2026 or later - well after the Mays consent decree timeline for compliance. We urge County staff to recognize that the ADA and HIPAA requirements needed to meet the consent decree can be met in the Rio Cosumnes Correctional Center, requiring only minor structural changes.

The County needs to focus on improving care inside the jails now. In the “First Report of Compliance in Mental Health Services Based on Consent Decree,” expert Mary Perrien questioned why the singular solution under discussion has been construction of the Main Jail Annex stating, “there must be an interim plan to provide adequate treatment at all levels of care for all detainees in need of mental health services.” Perrien stressed that this interim plan “will require that all parties come together and work creatively to identify effective, acceptable solutions while awaiting the annex.” Dr. Perrien’s compliance report describes situations she observed where Sacramento Sheriff’s deputies interfered with programming and mental health care, and yet the Board has paid little attention to the Sheriff’s deficit in satisfying the consent decree.

Jail population reduction is a possible and necessary solution. The Mays v. Sacramento consent decree stresses that population reduction is the most cost effective and humane way to meet its requirements, and both parties agreed. Diverting people with disabilities and severe mental illness can and will count towards Mays consent decree progress and compliance. The county’s current mental health court diversion programs plan to divert less than 200 people per year out of Sacramento County jails, despite 40,000 jail bookings every year. Fully funding programs like the Public Defender’s Pretrial Support Project, that connects individuals to social services pre-trial, is one strong example of investments the county can make to sustainably decrease jail populations, as 70% of persons incarcerated in the jails have not been convicted of a crime.

The Board must prioritize the future of our county budget. They can start by implementing accountability systems for the financial burden of the Sheriff’s lawsuits, which account for 38% of Sacramento County’s total lawsuits. Jail population reduction will significantly reduce the financial burden of maintaining the county’s high jail population and its ongoing medical and mental health needs. The Board of Supervisors decides who bears the financial burden of the consent decree requirements, and how that consent decree is met. If Sacramento County is truly concerned about meeting the Mays consent decree in the most fiscally responsible way, the county will commit to building a comprehensive and measurable coordination plan with all power-holders in the criminal justice system to prioritize significantly decreasing jail populations first, before moving forward with any construction project.

As community members and organizations in Sacramento County, we do not approve the use of $10 million from our General Fund for the Kitchell Construction contract. We recognize this is just the beginning of the budgetary violence that will divert $200 million of taxpayer funds, and exponential operating costs, for a new jail building. Sacramento County has not fully exhausted all options for meeting the consent decree. We call on the Board to end to this project and commit to alternatives to incarceration that prioritize public health and community safety.

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Sacramento, CA

To: Sacramento County Board of Supervisors
From: [Your Name]

We believe that the majority of the Sacramento County Board of Supervisors know by now that the Mays v. Sacramento consent decree does not require a new jail building. The plan to build a “Correctional Health and Mental Health Facility” is severely misguided, and we urge the Board of Supervisors to cancel the plan (costing over $17 million for the plans alone) on Wednesday, March 10th. We call upon the Board to acknowledge that a new jail annex is: not the only option to meet the consent decree, not a cost effective option, and least beneficial for improving the welfare of the 3,200 persons who are incarcerated in Sacramento County jails.

This expansion project is a false promise; it does not remove the fundamental and urgent need for measurable policy and organizational culture change inside the jail system. These changes require meeting hundreds of consent decree requirements related medical, mental health, and suicide prevention issues. As of January 2021, more than a year after federal approval of the consent decree, the county has not fully complied with any of the mental health provisions, none of the suicide prevention provisions, and only 5% of medical provisions. The Board of Supervisors should be focused on organizational leadership structures and accountability, to ensure that Adult Correctional Health, UC Davis Psychiatric Services, and the Sheriff’s Department are undergoing the necessary changes to meet their consent decree requirements.

A new jail annex will not meet the consent decree. In fact, this option will likely lead to further human suffering and more lawsuits. The Main Jail Annex would not bring the County into compliance with the Mays consent decree. Assuming the project will include 100-150 new mental health beds, the new building would only accommodate roughly 5% of the 55% of the jail population currently living with mental illness, and not until 2026 or later - well after the Mays consent decree timeline for compliance. We urge County staff to recognize that the ADA and HIPAA requirements needed to meet the consent decree can be met in the Rio Cosumnes Correctional Center, requiring only minor structural changes.

The County needs to focus on improving care inside the jails now. In the “First Report of Compliance in Mental Health Services Based on Consent Decree,” expert Mary Perrien questioned why the singular solution under discussion has been construction of the Main Jail Annex stating, “there must be an interim plan to provide adequate treatment at all levels of care for all detainees in need of mental health services.” Perrien stressed that this interim plan “will require that all parties come together and work creatively to identify effective, acceptable solutions while awaiting the annex.” Dr. Perrien’s compliance report describes situations she observed where Sacramento Sheriff’s deputies interfered with programming and mental health care, and yet the Board has paid little attention to the Sheriff’s deficit in satisfying the consent decree.

Jail population reduction is a possible and necessary solution. The Mays v. Sacramento consent decree stresses that population reduction is the most cost effective and humane way to meet its requirements, and both parties agreed. Diverting people with disabilities and severe mental illness can and will count towards Mays consent decree progress and compliance. The county’s current mental health court diversion programs plan to divert less than 200 people per year out of Sacramento County jails, despite 40,000 jail bookings every year. Fully funding programs like the Public Defender’s Pretrial Support Project, that connects individuals to social services pre-trial, is one strong example of investments the county can make to sustainably decrease jail populations, as 70% of persons incarcerated in the jails have not been convicted of a crime.

The Board must prioritize the future of our county budget. They can start by implementing accountability systems for the financial burden of the Sheriff’s lawsuits, which account for 38% of Sacramento County’s total lawsuits. Jail population reduction will significantly reduce the financial burden of maintaining the county’s high jail population and its ongoing medical and mental health needs. The Board of Supervisors decides who bears the financial burden of the consent decree requirements, and how that consent decree is met. If Sacramento County is truly concerned about meeting the Mays consent decree in the most fiscally responsible way, the county will commit to building a comprehensive and measurable coordination plan with all power-holders in the criminal justice system to prioritize significantly decreasing jail populations first, before moving forward with any construction project.

As community members and organizations in Sacramento County, we do not approve the use of $10 million from our General Fund for the Kitchell Construction contract. We recognize this is just the beginning of the budgetary violence that will divert $200 million of taxpayer funds, and exponential operating costs, for a new jail building. Sacramento County has not fully exhausted all options for meeting the consent decree. We call on the Board to end to this project and commit to alternatives to incarceration that prioritize public health and community safety.