County officials gathered Monday at the San Benito County jail to break ground on a new $20 million expansion expected to be complete in 2019.
“The money to construct these buildings comes about every 20 years, so when it comes you better take it,” said former Sheriff Curtis Hill, who served 34 years with the department, including 12 years as sheriff. “Because if you don’t, somebody else is going to get it.”
Total project costs for the jail expansion are estimated at $25,016,394. According to county documents, the state is funding $20,053,000, of which $15 million was awarded in 2007 to expand the jail to address overcrowding.
“The purpose of the project is actually pretty simple: we’re overcrowded currently because we have people here for longer terms that have increased needs,” said Captain Don Bradley, who said he was hired in 2013 specifically for the jail expansion project. “We need to have a physical plant that will deliver those services.”
The 142-bed maximum security county jail on Flynn Road will increase by approximately 25,000 square feet, including 72 medium-security, dorm-style beds in two housing pods. Each pod will contain three, 12-person dorms with a large program room in each dorm.
The larger facility will enable increased opportunities for rehabilitation in an effort to reduce recidivism. It will include a new administration area, new booking and intake area, new medical area and new video visitation rooms.
Bradley said the inclusion of rehabilitation facilities is mandated by California Assembly Bill 109, which the state passed in 2011 after being ordered by the federal government to increase medical and psychiatric care as well as reduce the state’s prison population.
“As a result, thousands of inmates were pushed back into county jails,” Bradley said. “The term “Non-non-non” was given to these inmates, which stands for non-serious, non-sexual, non-violent. If you talk to my staff, those words don’t fit anybody that’s here right now. They’re all pretty serious people.”
County supervisors gave the $20 million construction contract to Montana-based Sletten Construction in July. Two months earlier, they awarded nearly $1 million to Vanir Construction to manage and oversee the expansion.
“It’s a great day and momentous for San Benito County,” San Benito County Supervisor Anthony Botelho said. “We certainly look forward to 18 months from now having a bigger ceremony. The board of supervisors are certainly committed to these services.”