SALINAS, Calif. - UPDATE 9/18/2017 6 p.m.:
A long-awaited project is underway at the 45 year old Monterey County Jail. On Monday, Monterey County leaders officially broke ground on the multi-million dollar jail expansion project.
The current facility holds 825 inmates, but the population can get up to 1,100. 576 beds are being added, which will boost capacity to 1,402. The layout is being changed.
"We are going away from open dormitory style housing units to where inmates are out roaming free without rooms to go back to, to units that will have two-man cells throughout them," said Capt. Jim Bass.
These units will also have areas for medical exams, services and programs like high school classes, anger management courses and substance abuse help.
"This is going to be a safer facility,” said Sheriff Steve Bernal. “For them it will be a safer facility, for the deputies. Also to provide programming. We'll bring programming to the inmates instead of bringing inmates to the programming."
That could help reduce inmate confrontations with fewer inmates being escorted between programs and their cells.
Each unit will also have yards attached to them, so inmates don’t have to walk to the second floor to get outdoor time.
Jail leaders say there’s a much different inmate population these days that are more dangers.
"AB 109 basically redirected what they considered lower level felons to the county jails throughout the state,” said Bass. “These inmates, most of them have been to prison before, so they brought that prison mentality and those prison politics to the county jails. And it's, they're more violent."
Visitors can still access the jail lobby and have face-to-face visits with inmates during construction. It should be completed in late 2019.
Right next to the jail, construction continues on the Monterey County Juvenile Hall. The focus with underage offenders is shifting from incarceration to education. Work on the $59 million project started in May. It’s also expected to wrap up in 2019.
In the meantime, getting in and out of the Natividad Road campus and parking will be tricky. There is an auxiliary road past Chaparral, where the main entrance is, that folks can use to get to the jail or the Sheriff’s Office. People can still visit inmates at the jail.
“There will still be access to our main jail lobby so they can come in here,” Bass said. “They can check on bail, they can still put money on the loved ones' accounts. They can still come in and visit. We will still have face to face visiting taking place during the entirety of the construction project.”
A long awaited expansion project is underway at the Monterey County Jail.
The existing facility was built in 1972 and can house about 825 inmates, but the average daily population can go as high as more than 1,100.
The county said it’s forced to find alternative housing for inmates, usually in other county jails. The planned jail expansion will provide an additional 288 beds.
They’re creating units with two-man cells throughout them. Before, inmates would have to be transported to get to services and programs. Officials said those services and programs are coming to the jail. New units will have an exam room and a room where they can attend programs. The idea is that it will help reduce inmate confrontations. They said inmates, not just in Monterey County, but all over the state, are becoming more violent.
A state grant will be paying roughly $89 million for the expansion project.
KION's Mariana Hicks has the story at 5 and 6 p.m.