At the end of 2022 we saw Sacramento County bring back its plan for jail expansion, despite the community having previously blocked an expansion on 3/10/21 (to learn more click here). Once again, the public has been lied to & the county is breaking promises made to explore solutions other than a jail expansion.
Sac County Main Jail pictured below
Back in September (09/14/22) the Sac County BOS received reports (agenda doc linked here) from "experts" that claimed to support the need for the construction of a new jail. At the BOS meeting in December presentations regarding the proposed expansion of the Sac County Main Jail, and public comment took place. The following day, 12/8, the Board voted in favor of approving the jail expansion plan.
As a brief reminder, Sacramento County is under a consent decree (Mays Consent Decree) that provides a legal mandate to remedy some of the abuses taking place in the jails - summary below:
[Sacramento County jails] failed to provide constitutionally required mental health and medical care to people in the jail, employed harsh and extreme forms of solitary confinement, failed to implement essential suicide prevention measures, and discriminated against people with disabilities (Mays v. County of Sacramento, 2019)
Today we're bringing you an update on what's been happening since the vote in December!
At the 4/19/23 Sac County BOS meeting the Board received an update on this expansion process in the form of a presentation from County staff.
This presentation covered the two frameworks that have been established for guiding the expansion process:
Framework 1 - Implementation of Jail Population Reduction Plans
Framework 2 - Construction to Remediate Jail Facility Deficiencies for Mays Consent Decree compliance
Let's do a quick background recap before we dive deeper into the presentation!
As mentioned above, the Mays Consent Decree mandates that the conditions within Sac County jails are meeting constitutional requirements
Compliance with the Consent Decree is monitored by the Prison Law Office, Disability Rights of California, and the Law Office of Aaron Fischer, collectively Class Counsel, as well as additional subject matter experts
These monitors report to the Federal Court overseeing the Consent Decree every 6 months, and have consistently found that the County is not in compliance with the Decree's provisions
The County has consistently (and predictably) insisted that all of these issues of privacy violations, abuse, and unconstitutional conditions will be resolved if the jail is expanded.
More context has been pulled from the 4/19 meeting's staff report:
In June 2022, following several reports from experts, the County and Class Counsel entered into a subsequent Memorandum of Agreement (MOA) aimed at implementing foundational remedial measures regarding mental health care and suicide prevention. The MOA recognized the importance of developing plans for jail population reduction efforts, as well as a plan to remedy physical plant deficiencies impacting delivery of care.
In its typical fashion, the County has chosen to frame the heinous conditions within the Main Jail as something that can only be remedied by expanding said jail. This planned building expansion, once called the “Correctional Health and Mental Health Facility" and now called the "Services and Health Intake Facility," is a thinly veiled effort from the County to "address" the mental health needs of the people incarcerated within the jail while refusing to actually invest in the community in ways that would provide alternatives to the carceral system. Instead they are actively seeking to further entrench law enforcement as the agency that "cares" for our most oppressed and vulnerable populations.
In the clip below, Dr. Corrine McIntosh Sako, Chair of Sacramento County's Mental Health Board, South Sac native and mental health advocate, lays out for the Board how and why they are failing residents who are in need of mental health treatment by choosing to maintain the jail as the biggest provider of mental health services in Sacramento County.
The County's plan to move forward with the expansion also includes their list of things that can be done to reduce the jail population( AKA "framework 1") while still ensuring that they get the result they want. That result is a larger jail, and as we know, a "solution" that doesn't' actually solve anything.
NOTE - all of the County's recommended plans for jail population reduction actually serve to increase the reach of the carceral system, and do not provide any resources/mechanisms/supports for preventing folks from coming into contact with the system in the first place.
ADDITIONALLY - keep in mind that there are many steps left in this expansion process before construction would even begin, which also means that there are MANY opportunities for the community to intervene and shut the process down! The County doesn't know how this will turn out, and the timelines they've given are aggressive, but also subject to change, so it's important to stay plugged in.
Let's dig into the content from the 4/19 meeting!
Framework 1 – Implementation of Jail Population Reduction Plans
Most of the information presented was a repeat of what was discussed at the 12/7/23 meeting before the expansion process was approved. The County has formed working groups to address jail population reduction, it remains to be seen if they will be at all helpful for accomplishing meaningful population reductions. There is potential for pretrial service expansion efforts to make some headway, but the pretrial working group has yet to take any meaningful action.
The important takeaway from this portion of the presentation is that in the first quarter of 2023, the average daily population (ADP) of the jails has gone down by 431. Some of that number is due to the evacuation of RCCC during the storms, and some of it is due to the fact that some folks being held on federal charges were sent to different facilities, HOWEVER the fact remains that the population WAS reduced and that is momentum in the right direction.
The headline is that in Q1 the jails' population was reduced, and it has become even more glaringly obvious that the fearmongering around population reduction is just that, fearmongering. If we continue to see a drop each quarter we'll be well on our way to making a big dent in the total jail population. This is a great example of the fact that reducing the jail population doesn't make the community less safe, instead it's a step towards healing the community. Keep pushing for population reductions!
Framework 2 – Construction to Remediate Jail Facility Deficiencies
First, let's start with the County's ongoing process of finding an architect to design this expansion. Design firm Nacht and Lewis built the Main Jail, the conditions of which brought on the lawsuit, and they themselves admit that the violations inherent to the building cannot be remedied. This same design firm had been in the running for being chosen to design this new expansion. Obviously that would be an enormous conflict of interest.
That brings us to the most recent meeting. The County dropped its architecture RPF (request for proposals) for this expansion in March of 2023. Before this expansion was officially approved by the Board, they had promised not to partner with Nacht & Lewis for construction purposes. However, it appears that although Nacht & Lewis isn't contracted for the construction of this expansion, their previous contract with the County was never canceled, AND they're consulting on the current RFP process. So...one wonders about ethics, accountability, and transparency...
STAY ALERT FOR - a call to action in August (when the new firm's contract will be brought before the Board for approval) around this RFP process!
In the slide deck below, you can find the timeline presented for the expansion process. As can be seen in these slides, this is a long multi-year process with many steps between now and potential construction. We've got time to stop this expansion, let's keep showing up!
*Slide two (above) is about a project separate from the Main Jail expansion related to modifications of the Rio Cosumnes Correctional Center (RCCC). We're not focusing on that project for this particular piece, but it is worth noting that these "improvements" won't do anything to protect against RCCC flooding during storms, as pointed out by Supervisor Serna.