Coalition of Community Groups Rejects Sacramento County Plan for New Jail Building, Demands Follow Through on Promises for Jail Population Reduction
Advocates say community-based services outside of the jail, and Sheriff accountability inside of it, is only way to come into compliance with Mays consent decree
(Sacramento, CA)—Sacramento County residents are once again mobilizing to stop a $465 Million jail expansion proposal that the Board of Supervisors will vote on next Wednesday, December 7th @ 11:00am. This will mark the fourth time in less than three years that county electeds and staff are considering significant jail construction. A coalition of organizations will gather at the site of the proposed new jail (7th & H) on Monday, December 5th @ 9:30am for a press conference, and a large turnout is expected at the Board of Supervisors meeting two days later.
The proposal for an additional “annex” building to the downtown jail was originally canceled by the Board of Supervisors on March 10, 2021 following months of community outcry. Concerns included the unsustainable cost of expanding a broken system, and the need for community-based services that prevent incarceration. County staff claim the new building is necessary to meet the Mays v. Sacramento federal consent decree requirements, particularly ADA and HIPAA compliance. But advocates point to the court-appointed expert monitoring reports and the failure to make simple improvements possible in the current facility, like additional privacy booths for intake nurses, utilizing white noise machines, and keeping sheriffs out of the room when patients are being interviewed.
“Most of the conditions issues are caused by jail staff behavior. New buildings will not guarantee better conditions, but reducing staff-patient ratios and enforcing current policies to treat people humanely will,” said Liz Blum, a co-founder of Decarcerate Sacramento. “All parties involved have acknowledged that an overpopulated jail is at the core of this crisis.”
Currently, 83% of the jail is pretrial status awaiting court, and 62% have diagnosed mental illness. Over half of those booked into the jail are released within three days. While the county released its first series of “jail population reduction plans” last month, advocates say it’s a step in the right direction but lacks meaningful commitments, measurements for accountability and an implementation strategy.
“We need reentry support. We need housing. We need mental health support for people exiting the jail,” said Katie Valenzuela, Sacramento City Councilmember for District 4, which includes downtown Sacramento. “From a practical perspective, you can’t really do both. If you’re going to invest hundreds of millions into a jail facility, you won’t have the resources.”
PRESS CONTACT: Liz Blum – firstname.lastname@example.org, 530-402-5123