News >> Browse Articles >> Law Enforcement News


Sheriff's Office Could Be On Hook for $17M to House Future Inmates

San Jose Mercury News via YellowBrix

March 15, 2011

SAN MATEO, CA – If Gov. Jerry Brown’s budget plan is approved, San Mateo County could be on the hook for up to $17.1 million annually to house convicts it would typically ship to state prisons, according to Sheriff Greg Munks.

Convicts sentenced to more than one year currently are sent to state prison, Assistant Sheriff Trisha Sanchez said. But under Brown’s proposal, the county would have to keep future inmates convicted of “non-violent, non-sexual, non-serious” offenses, many of which involve drug crimes or theft.

In time, the number would add up to about 399 extra inmates a year for San Mateo County’s jails, already bursting at the seams, according to the Sheriff’s Office. This month, the combined inmate population at the men and women’s jails in Redwood City was 995, or almost 20 percent more than the facilities’ state-rated capacity of 834 inmates.

Information from the state suggests the counties will receive a set amount — $25,000 — for each offender kept in county jail instead of sent to state prison, regardless of how long they stay, Sanchez said.

“That’s what they’re telling us at this point,” she said. “But nothing’s been finalized.”

The Sheriff’s Office determined that the average prison sentence for the types of offenders who might remain in the county jail would be 399 days, according to a March 14 memo Munks sent to the Board of Supervisors’ Criminal Justice Committee. In a worst-case scenario, 399 male inmates incarcerated in the county jail instead of in state prison at an average daily expense of $169.92 each for 399 days would cost the county more than $27.1 million a year. And the state would reimburse the county less than $10 million, according to Munks’ calculations.

Sanchez said after Monday’s Criminal Justice Committee meeting that while Brown’s plan “makes sense in concept,” it puts the county in the position of having to scramble to find more than $17 million to cover the difference.

The Sheriff’s Office also would need to figure out where to house the extra inmates in the next few years before a new jail with 748 beds is built.

In theory, Brown’s proposal assumes that local governments will deal with the possible influx of inmates by changing the way they work with them and perhaps incorporating more programs for diversion and substance-abuse treatment.

“They want us to think about alternatives to incarceration,” said Sanchez, adding that the courts would have to decide to skip jail because the county wouldn’t want to release any inmates who would “pose a risk to public safety.”

The Sheriff’s Office is also looking at its 116-bed La Honda Medium Security facility as a possible “safety valve” to relieve overcrowding, Sanchez said. The facility has been empty since it was closed in 2003.

It’s not an ideal solution, said Sanchez, noting that its remote location makes transporting inmates there expensive and that the facility is costly to operate — about $5.2 million a year.

With so many variables at work, the ultimate impacts of the state budget changes are unknown, Sanchez said. If Brown’s budget prevails, she said the county would begin keeping about 33 inmates a month.

“It’s not like the prison doors would be opened when the new budget happens,” she said.

  • Nado_max50


    over 3 years ago


    I'm just happy that in my state of Oklahoma, we will be there very last state to legalize marijuana, we will find a way to build bigger jails, employ more people, and not show weakness by making something legal because its just to hard to deal with. Follow the rules or go to jail, simple enough, Oklahoma has the highest arrest rate of females for anywhere in the country so we show we are not biased. I'm all for tent city if thats what it takes, also more jails means more jobs for people that deserve it.

  • Justice-400_max50


    over 3 years ago


    ssu459, a good idea except that you have to keep in mind that they need CO's to staff that new tent city. If we were looking at issues regarding simply building a new jail or prison, the tent city may be a viable option. Unfortunately though, CO's contribute to that cost of housing an inmate.

    I know no one likes it, but legalizing marijuana and no longer housing thousands of criminals for marijuana offenses (and only those offenses) sure would empty our prisons of people who are not really a threat to society. Or at least, they're no more a threat than anyone who drinks alcohol.

  • Pug_max600_max50


    over 3 years ago


    $168.92 per day or $61,655. per year. At Dallas County we spend 84 cents a day for each inmate's food. You better have some commissary money in your account. or get use to the monotony called the daily grind..

  • Spd_max50


    over 3 years ago


    Are you serious- $169.92 a day- That is over 5,000 a month to house a inmate. That is more money than a-lot of LEO'S make a month. No wonder why California is suffering. Stop feeding these POS Steak & Eggs and start feeding them high fiber bread ,water and a apple everyday!

  • Thumbnailcadtx9dg_max50


    over 3 years ago


    Sounds like Governor Moonbeam and Governor CEO have something in common... Cranial rectumitus... Inmates getting a sentence of more than 1 year belong in DOC.

  • Photo_user_blank_big


    over 3 years ago

    No wonder California's economy/finances have been in the toilet for years.Put up tents in the desert like sheriff Joe does in Arizona and put the low lifed pukes to work.

  • Untitledma28839986-0002_max50


    over 3 years ago


    Seems like a hell of a lot on money. 169.92 per inmate. Our county recieves about half that amount per day for a state inmate. They must be living good in California prisons. But then again we are talking about Califorina. What a waste.

  • 1979_max50


    over 3 years ago


    Too bad the people of Calif forgot why they got rid of Jerry Brown the first time. The guy is a complete moron.

  • Dscf2012_max50


    over 3 years ago


    ok, so the State saves but the County has to increase taxes to cover what the State used to do. So how does this help the citizen?

PoliceLink School Finder

Save time in your search for a criminal justice degree program. Use PoliceLink's School Finder to locate schools online and in your area.

Get Info

* In the event that we cannot find a program from one of our partner schools that matches your specific area of interest, we may show schools with similar or unrelated programs.