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$2BILLION for a new jail?!

Quick summary

On 8/8/23 the Sac County BOS voted on an item amending a contract with jail expansion design firm Nacht & Lewis, and a second item approving the selection of Kitchell/CEM, Inc, for construction management services and approving the intent of the county to secure a $925Million bond ($2BILLION with interest!!) to fund this expansion. The county is slated to pay Nacht & Lewis ($7Million total) for their work on this project, a project they said was necessary and which they will continue profit off of. Both items were approved with a 3-2 vote with Supervisors Kennedy and Serna voting against continuing the expansion. Supervisor Kennedy voted "no" at this meeting, which is a positive shift from his "yes" vote in December 2022 to continue the Main jail expansion, which was previously blocked in March of 2021. In November of this year the board will vote on approving an RFQ (Request for Quote)/RFP(Request for Proposal) for this project, and it will be important for our community to show up! Stay tuned. Together we WILL stop this expansion.

ICYMI: Sacramento County wants to expand the Main Jail

June 2019

Sacramento County reached a settlement with the Prison Law Office (PLO), Disability Rights California, and Cooley LLP that was intended to address (according to the PLO press release linked above), the "dangerous and unconstitutional conditions in the jails"

The name of this class action lawsuit settlement is Mays v. County of Sacramento.

This settlement committed the County to considering ways to reduce the jail population, and prevent folks with serious mental illness from being unnecessarily incarcerated.

How to make sense of this information:

(from a September 2022 SJPC write-up)

This new jail [Main jail expansion] is the county’s solution to the Mays v. Sacramento consent decree, which outlines hundreds of policy changes needed in the main jail and strongly urges the county to decrease jail populations in order to reduce the cost of meeting the terms of the lawsuit

What's the key takeaway?

*pulled from same write-up mentioned above

The Mays Consent Decree does not require the County to build additional jail beds or engage in any particular form of construction. It requires the County to meet minimum conditions for the people it chooses to incarcerate. The County is free to determine the manner in which to comply with those legal obligations.

Significant and sensible reduction of the jail population is a critical step toward compliance with the Consent Decree and resolution of the Mays litigation.

March 2021

On March 10th of 2021, Sacramento County BOS voted to deny county staff recommendations to approve a $10Million construction contract for expanding the jail. The vote vetoed the accelerated expansion of the Main County Jail in downtown Sacramento.

In a 4-1 vote (Supervisor Frost being the only "yes" vote), the Board of Supervisors decided to deny the county staff recommendation to approve the $10Million construction contract.

...obviously they went back on this…

September 2022

At a BOS meeting in September of 2022, an item was agendized to provide for the board to receive reports from "experts" that claimed to support the "need" for the construction of a new jail. No decision was made at this meeting; for a longer breakdown of the misinformation presented to the Board from these reports, check out this SJPC write up.

Basically, the County brought back their plan to expand the jail. The public HAS BEEN lied to, because there is NO need for this hugely expensive jail expansion; even just focusing on meeting the Mays consent decree, there are myriad other ways to come into compliance without constructing any new facilities. The public IS BEING continually lied to about the need for an expansion. The narrative being pushed by the County and the Sheriff is that adding more beds will resolve the inhumane conditions within the jail. We know this to be untrue, and we especially know that new building walls will not stop the culture of abuse and rights violations within the jail.

Rather than truly engaging in developing other plans, the county is choosing a jail expansion, and breaking the promises made on March 10th, 2021 to explore other solutions.

December 2022

After the meeting in September, the expansion project was brought back to the Board in December of 2022; presentations regarding the proposed expansion and overwhelming opposition during public comment took place on 12/7/22, and the following day, 12/8, the Board voted in favor of approving the jail expansion plan.

A little more context for the 12/8 vote: in June of 2021 executive staff at the county decided to ask a design firm called Nacht & Lewis to conduct a “study” on the feasibility of meeting the consent decree without a jail expansion, which essentially amounted to an ask for them to tell the county that an expansion WAS necessary. We’ll dive more into that next!

August 2023

On 8/8/23 Sacramento County Board of Supervisors (BOS) voted on 2 important items related to the jail expansion: item #48 (Nacht & Lewis Architectural Contract) and item #49 (Kitchell Construction Contract & approval of getting $925M Bond/Loan).

Thank you to Decarcerate Sacramento for making the action toolkit for this meeting that informed much of the following section.

Regarding the Nacht & Lewis contract: the contract should be canceled. Nacht & Lewis is the firm that was hired to design the current jail, and the firm that was to design the jail expansion that was initiated before the project was canceled in 2021. However, the N&L contract was never fully canceled.

Sacramento County is continuing to pay the firm ($7Million) that will profit off of the expansion despite it being the same firm that just so happens to be telling the County that the only way to meet the Mays consent decree is to pursue an expansion. Not to mention the fact that back in September of 2022, county executive staff stated (9/14/22 BOS meeting @6:39pm) that N&L wouldn't continue to be involved with this project...seems like a conflict of interest.

Regarding Kitchell/CEM & the $925Million bond:

Kitchell/CEM, Inc is the same construction management firm that had been selected to work on the expansion project before the BOS vetoed the plan in March of 2021. No new Request for Proposals (RFP)/bid process has been issued since then, and now the county has approved up to $18,897,168 for Kitchell/CEM to work on the expansion.

This item also included a resolution “Declaring The Official Intent Of The County Of Sacramento To Reimburse Itself For Certain Capital Expenditures From The Proceeds Of Indebtedness,” - this basically means that the County will initiate the process of getting a $925Million Bond (what's a bond?). This bond will put the county into an enormous amount of debt, and once the $50Million (at least) per year in interest is taken into account, one more time, the total price tag is closer to $2BILLION.

Supervisors Kennedy and Serna voted against these items, and therefore against continuing with the expansion of the Main Jail. Even though the final vote was 3-2 to continue the project, this is a partial win, especially considering that Supervisor Kennedy shifted from his vote to approve the project in December of 2022.

In sum, the county is being pushed by staff and consultants to build a jail that won’t solve any problems, and will throw the county into a huge amount of debt and cost taxpayers billions.

What's next?

We're taking the lead on fighting this project from Decarcerate Sacramento (big thanks to DS for the graphic to the right), and they are letting us know that upcoming actions will include mobilizing to push back on BOS approval of an RFQ (Request for Quote)/RFP (Request for Proposal) for this project in November, as well as pushing to demand the cancelation of the Nacht & Lewis contract! Stay tuned!


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