No Jail Sales Tax. Where Do We Go From Here?

Last week, the Board voted 5-0 not to put a 1% sales tax increase on November’s ballot to fund construction of a jail expansion. I advocated for this decision in my email last Monday, citing compelling polling data you contributed to. You can see the latest poll numbers here.

As a side note, I think polls can be a powerful way to influence the decisions of the Board – but it requires hearing from a lot of you, which we did last week, getting results from just shy of 1,100 residents or 1% of all Shasta County registered voters.

With a sales tax increase as the only way to fund a jail expansion and the tax dead in the water for now, where do we go from here? 

Well, where we don’t go is onto another topic. 

I told you I was running to cut crime for 11 months – and that hasn’t changed. I think it’s unacceptable that Redding’s violent crime rate is almost equal to San Francisco’s. 

I also told you that making progress on these challenges would require grit. We would run into obstacles, but we must keep going. And so we will.

Here’s my current thinking on how we cut crime and address our need for facilities:

I welcome your feedback.

1. Use Prop 1 money to build a behavioral health facility: We apply for Proposition 1 Bond Funding to build an inpatient mental/behavioral health facility that can ideally treat and help stabilize some of those who would otherwise be in jail and those who will likely end up in jail at some point. I discuss this need here.

The request for applications for “launch ready” projects is supposed to go out this month. I worry that we’re not ready and our Behavioral Health Director has resigned and will be leaving in August, making it even less likely that we have a leader in place driving this forward.

What can we do? Encourage the current Board to get the County moving on this by writing the Board an email or mentioning this during public comment at upcoming Board meetings. If you need help coming up with what to say, let me know.

 

2. Look into using Opioid Settlement dollars to build a low-security substance use treatment facility: Law enforcement observationally reports that the vast majority of those in our jail have substance use problems. If we can divert more of those individuals into treatment, we can free up space in the jail and reduce recidivism. 

The County expects to receive $20M from this settlement. “At least half of all funds received must be utilized for High Impact Abatement Activities” – which includes “creating new or expanded substance use disorder infrastructure.” The Butte County Board approved some of their settlement dollars for infrastructure and Santa Cruz is considering something similar. 

We’ve only given out $300,000 so far. I’m hoping to work with the County and some existing supervisors to get recommendations for how these funds could be used to fund a facility and to begin work on a comprehensive strategy for reducing addiction and substance abuse in our community. 

 

3. Pursue other cost-effective ways to reduce crime: Building a bigger jail is only 1 of many different ways we can cut crime in Shasta County. It’s an important one, but other actions may cut crime by similar amounts at a much lower cost. 

Identifying and funding these actions will take some time and collaboration, but some of this is already happening. I recently participated in a committee that applied for state grant dollars to reduce recidivism among misdemeanor offenders. I offer some ideas here, but I’d like to see us set a county-wide goal for reducing crime and then build a comprehensive, collaborative strategy for hitting that goal.

 

4. Continue to save money for a new state-of-the-art jail facility in the future: Even if we’re successful with the above 2 strategies, we will need to build a new jail at some point in the future. Not only does the current jail have a limited lifespan, but its design leads to high operational costs and prevents us from doing all the work we would like to do with inmates to reduce recidivism. 

If we are successful with the above 3 strategies and we design a jail that reduces recidivism,  we may not need a new jail that is bigger than our current jail. What if in 10 years we needed fewer beds than our current ~450-bed jail rather than 1.5-2x more beds? 

This may not be possible, at least not in a 10-year timeframe, but it’s a worthy goal. Either way, we should continue to save for a new jail facility.


I’m not going to let this topic die. I’m going to keep this front and center until we have the facilities our county needs and we see our crime rates plummet. 

What do you think the County could do to reduce crime?