Community Groups Make Last Ditch Effort to Stop Richmond Jail Expansion

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Despite the opposition of the City of Richmond and a number of health, faith, labor and human rights groups, the Contra Costa County Board of Supervisors is poised to approve Sheriff David Livingston’s plan to construct a new $89 million high-security wing at the West County Detention Facility in Richmond.

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This expansion has been justified as improving the availability of mental health and re-entry services behind bars without increasing the county’s total jail capacity.

 

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Yet the Sheriff’s plan has drawn skepticism from Richmond officials and residents, who say that it provides few specifics on the proposed services and would actually result in a net increase of 418 jail beds.

 

Community members are angry that the county might allocate money for a new jail facility while there remains a critical need for funding in health services, as well as mental health treatment, post-release re-entry services and other programs based in the community.

 

No more than 90 percent of the total capital costs for this project could be funded by the state, leaving the county on the hook for $9 million in construction, plus at least $5 million per year in ongoing operation costs.

 

The Sheriff hopes to expand this jail during a time when communities across the county and nation want to invest in alternatives to incarceration.

 

Less than one year ago, voters in Contra Costa County approved Proposition 47 by a margin of 66 percent, demonstrating a mandate to move away from jail sentencing for many offenses.

 

Meanwhile, people of color constitute less than one-third of the county’s population but make up three-fourths of the county jail population.

 

East Bay Alliance for Sustainable Economy (EBASE) will rally outside the Sheriff’s office, 11 a.m., Tuesday, Aug. 11 at 651 Pine St. in Martinez, one week before the Board of Supervisor is scheduled to vote on the project.

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