By a 4-1 vote, Shasta County’s Board of Supervisors charted a course to build a new 256-bed annex to the existing jail in downtown Redding.
Mary Rickert, representing District 3 since 2017, was the lone dissenting vote.
“I haven’t heard how the mental health issues will be addressed,” said Rickert, who since 2017 was elected to represent Burney, Fall River Mills, McArthur, Montgomery Creek, Oak Run, Palo Cedro, Round Mountain, Whitmore, a small portion of southeastern Redding, southern Bella Vista and other small communities in the mostly rural northeastern part of Shasta County.
Taking the chairman’s gavel for the first time since joining the board two years ago, Patrick Jones of District 4 envisions construction of a “256-bed state-of-the-art facility” that the county can afford without passing a special bond act or asking for state grant funding.
Prior to the vote, Public Works Director Al Cathey gave a multi-media presentation outlining two alternatives, including the jail annex and an entirely new jail facility to be built on a county-owned site off Airport Road.
However, construction of an entirely new facility with nearly 1,000 beds at the remote site would likely cost up to $500 million, Cathey noted.
“We will only build what we can afford,” Cathey told the Board of Supervisors.
Although the jail annex is still in the conceptual stage, County Executive Officer Pat Minturn suggested during a lengthy discussion session prior to the board’s vote, the jail annex likely would not trigger any serious environmental issues that couldn’t be mitigated.
Such a project would likely cost between $110 million to $120 million since the annex could be designed to share the existing jail’s kitchen, booking and inmate transportation facilities, he suggested.
Minturn suggested project construction costs could be paid off with a conventional 30-year mortgage and annual payments of approximately $7.2 million per year from the county’s general fund.
Until the jail facility is built, staffing costs are unknown, he added.
Shasta County’s existing jail currently has a maximum capacity of 448 beds and requires 43 correctional officers and two sheriff’s deputies with annual operating costs of $24 million, Minturn said.
However, due to rehabbing efforts to replace doors on individual cells and community areas on the jail’s middle floor, the existing jail is “currently operating with just 324 beds and a total population of 252 persons incarcerated as of 8 a.m. today,” Undersheriff Brian Jackson said during his short presentation on jail staffing.
“Those 72 empty beds could fill up throughout the day,” he noted.
The jail segregates male and female adults on separate floors, Jackson added.
“We currently have 11 correctional officer vacancies and three or four support staff vacancies,
Anticipating the need for expansion due to chronic over-crowding of the existing facility, some funds were set aside in the county’s current budget to pay for architectural designs, permit fees and bidding the expansion project, Minturn explained.
During a public comment session prior to the board’s vote, Steven Kohn said, “256 beds is not enough. Those 72 empty beds could be filled by arrests of auto thieves alone.”
Numerous speakers urged board members to include additional mental health and drug detoxification program space inside the jail annex.
“What can we do while people are in (jail) to prevent recidivism. We need better programming and better training of staff to deal with these issues,” said a man who only gave his first name, Steve.
Jenny O’Connell followed up by defining recidivism as the act of returning to a criminal lifestyle upon release.
“If we don’t have program to lower recidivism, we will continue to have a revolving door over there (at the jail)” O’Connell said.
Authur Gorman, representing health care workers in area hospitals, warned the county supervisors “hospitals cannot continue to be holding cells for people with mental health issues.”
Citing several assaults of health care workers by hospitalized jail inmates, Gorman noted, “Some medical staff members are beaten or unable to work because they are disabled.”
It was statements such as these that likely prompted Supervisor Rickert to vote against the motion made by District 2 Supervisor Tim Garman, representing Centerville, French Gulch, Igo, Keswick, Ono, Platina, a portion of southwestern Redding and historic Shasta.
Garman’s motion was quickly seconded by recently-elected District 5 Supervisor Chris Kelstrom, representing Anderson, Cottonwood, Happy Valley, Millville, Manton, Shingletown and Viola.
Also newly elected to the board was District 1 Supervisor Kevin Crye, representing central and northern portions of Redding, supported Garman’s motion as did board chairman Jones, who represents northeastern Redding, northern Bella Vista, Castella, Crag View, Jones Valley, Lakehead, Mountain Gate and Shasta Lake City.
Following a luncheon break and a closed session to discuss personnel matters and negotiations with various labor groups, the board returned to open session and approved an agreement with the Omaha, Nebraska-based firm of DLR Group for architectural and engineering services for the jail annex project.
Editor’s note: This story was revised 1-11-23 a.m. for clarification.