$30 million county jail expansion dedicated Feb. 8

Project adding 144 beds is the first completed using state funds

Brian WilkinsonFebruary 13, 2013 

Madera County Department of Correction officials showcased the completed $30 million, 144 bed county jail expansion during ceremonies in Madera Feb. 8.

California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation and county officials were on hand for the dedication of the expansion, which was constructed with state funds granted by Assembly Bill 900, the Public Safety and Offender Rehabilitation Services Act of 2007.

More than 150 county officials, county employees and representatives from the governor's office and the State Department of Corrections were on hand for the dedication ceremony. The old jail, located at 14191 Road 28, contains more than 400 beds and is currently at near capacity.

In addition to the two inmate housing units (144 beds) Madera County Department of Corrections Director Manuel Perez, said the expansion also includes administration offices and a video visitation building that can accommodate up to 15 visitors at one time.

District 5 Supervisor Tom Wheeler said he was pleased Madera County was the first county in the state three years ago to offer the state property and to accept AB 900 dollars and allow the state to build the rehabilitation facility for low-level offenders.

"The new facility will help relieve overcrowding in our county jail system while providing about eight additional jobs that are required to operate the new facility." Wheeler said.

The new facility uses part of a 20-acre parcel the county purchased for the facility as well as the year-old county vehicle maintenance garage.

Wheeler said the state was so happy with the working relationship with the county, an additional $3 million in state funds has been granted to the county to build a new kitchen that will serve both the old and the new jail as well as juvenile hall and a new jail laundry facility.

The county has been receiving low level prisoners back to the county the past year due to the "Public Safety Realignment" plan implemented by the state that forced counties to house low level offenders within their county, in an effort to alleviate overcrowding in state prisons.

Perez has been with the Department of Correction for nearly 19 years and has served as the director for two years and oversees about 120 employees including correctional officers and administrative staff.

Perez said along with the new jail, new programs will also be implemented to help low level offenders reassimilate into the community after their release.

"We hope to provide life skills classes and behavioral counseling to help low level offenders assimilate back into the community."

According to Perez, some minor finish work needs to be completed on the new facility and low level prisoners are expected to start being assigned to the new facility in early March.

Michael Keitz, Madera County district attorney, said the jail expansion came none to soon.

"The advent of realignment has severely impacted our ability to house persons arrested for new crimes and violations of probation or parole," Keitz said. "Further, persons who before realignment would be sent to state prison now must be incarcerated in our county jail. We welcome this additional jail capacity as it will give us significantly greater flexibility to protect the public and allow us to seek justice for the people of Madera County."

"Over the last 16 months, California has made a historic change in correctional policy," Nolice Edwards, CDCR deputy secretary for external affairs said at the ceremony. "Under the realignment, we have created a stronger partnership between counties and the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation. As a result, more low-level offenders are now being housed and rehabilitated in their own communities instead of state prison."

"This expansion of the Madera County Jail is, quite literally, a concrete example of the state's commitment to support local law enforcement," Edwards said. "The Department of Corrections and county officials share a common goal to reduce repeat crime and help offenders return to constructive and lawful lives. This project is a great example of working together to make our communities more peaceful and safe."

While Madera County's jail expansion is the first in the state to be completed with AB 900 funds, it won't be the last according to Edwards. AB 900 provides $1.2 billion for counties to build projects like the one in Madera to reduce overcrowding in local jails. Currently, 21 counties are expanding jails with state funds from AB 900.

Perez said a portion of the state funds are being used to remodel the department's old administration, records and medical offices which should be completed by early July.

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