SALINAS, Calif. - The new Monterey County jail expansion construction in Salinas is halfway done and is on schedule to finish by the end of August next year.
The sheriff's office says the jail right now is way overcrowded and not efficient enough to hold so many prisoners. New facilities will help ease the concerns about overcrowding, while bringing more well-designed prisoner housing units to the region.
"These cells come in, two cells cast together. They weigh about 60,000 pounds a piece," said Stephen Doolittle, the project manager of the jail expansion employed by the company SJ Amoroso. "The walls would come in full height, they're 10 inches thick, solid concrete, some of them 10 feet wide and 50 feet tall. So they weighed about the same, about 54,000 pounds."
Beneath the concrete, layers of reinforcement metal or rebar, making these cells virtually escape-proof.
"It's literally, hardly any concrete. It's mostly steel. So to be able to get out of here, I don't think it's going to happen," said Doolittle.
"We are over capacity. Even with all the reductions we've made over the last two to three years, we're still over our board-rated capacity as we talk today," said Monterey County Sheriff's Office Capt. Jim Bass, who runs the daily operations at the jail.
Bass says laws requiring inmates to stay in local jails rather than going to state prison is part of the reason for this expansion. It will add over 570 new beds to the jail on top the 825 existing beds.
The new jail will also have ADA-compliant cells, 16 of them spread across eight housing units.
The new jail offices will have conference halls, areas where families and inmates can video chat and attorney-client rooms. And a more efficient housing unit design also helps correctional officers manage and care for inmates more effectively.
"Every unit will have a yard attached, they're own recreation yard," said Bass. "They will also have their own exam room attached, and then right off a secure corridor, they will all have a small program space."
But Bass says even more important is helping these inmates integrate back into their community once they have served their time.
"So we can put them in touch and bring in more of the community-based organizations to help them get jobs, find housing, get transportation, those sorts of things," he said.
The project costs nearly $90 million, and most of that money is coming from a state bond.