What is Really Happening with the New Jail Building Project

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Increasing the size of our jail – either by building an annex to supplement the existing space or a completely new jail – should be a top priority for the Board.

Crime in the 3 cities in the county went up 18% from 2021 to 2022 (I’m not sharing county-level data because it is not accurate for the last few years.) Redding’s violent crime rate is just shy of San Francisco’s.

And we don’t have enough space. We currently arrest 700-800 people per month. Our jail can hold about 450 people.

Supervisor Jones has made “taking the lead on building the new jail” a key case for his reelection, but he has made very little progress on this effort in his 3+ years on the board. Let’s review what has happened.

Shasta County has been trying to build a new jail for ~18 years. The county has taken a total of $83M from the state at 3 different points: 2008, 2012, and then 2017 - and it’s given all that money back. This is why Supervisor Jones talked about building a jail while campaigning in 2020.

 

Last year, the Board decided to pursue building a jail annex in downtown Redding near the current building where the old courthouse is located. The acting CEO at the time conceded that there was no plan to fund what was expected to be a $125M project.

It would have been great to have a funding plan at that point. If not, the Board should have requested that the acting CEO develop one. The acting CEO at the time was the county’s former Public Works Director - a great fit for developing a funding plan for what could be the county’s largest capital project. He soon retired, however.

In May of last year, the Board hired a county treasurer from Illinois to be our CEO, in part because they thought his financial experience would help us figure out how to fund the jail project.

In December, they gave him an unsolicited 5% raise for doing such a “great job.”

We’re now in February and we still have no funding plan for the jail. In fact, in my debate with Supervisor Jones on Kevin Crye’s radio show, I called him on this.

He said they have a plan they’ll be announcing shortly - but he refused to share it. In other words, he had no plan.

We’ve had 2 board meetings since that debate and the jail project hasn’t made it onto the agenda.

 

The state will vacate the old courthouse building in 2 weeks and then we’ll be able to do an environmental survey of the building and property - which will help us determine whether we can build a new jail building there.

While we should have had a funding plan months ago, it would make sense to have one before we decide whether to build at the site of the old courthouse.

Supervisor Jones isn’t leading us forward. He’s letting this fall through the cracks.

 

This isn’t the first time he has failed to lead on public safety.

  1. During 11 of his 12 months as Board Chair, 1/3 of our jail sat closed. It took city council members from the 3 cities applying pressure to get him to bring the Sheriff in to present a plan for reopening the third floor.
  2. While he was on the Redding City Council from 2007 to 2014, violent crime spiked - surpassing LA’s and, temporarily, San Francisco’s violent crime rates - while Chico’s rate went down.

If elected, I would make progress on funding the jail in months. I’d give the CEO 2 months to develop 3 options for funding a jail project costing $125-150M.

If he can’t deliver a viable set of options, I’d move to have us engage former county staff with expertise on the topic or outside experts. We’d have a plan in a few months.

I also recognize that a bigger jail isn’t going to solve our crime problem, though it can help. We need a comprehensive plan for cutting crime that prevents those with misdemeanors from moving into felonies, makes better use of the time in jail to prevent additional offenses, and better transitions people out of jail to set them up to be successful.

 

It’s time we hold our leaders accountable to deliver results.