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Push for ½ cent jail sales tax

It would take Manteca sales tax up to 9.75%

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Push for ½ cent jail sales tax

A proposed half cent sales tax is designed to provide more room at the jail to hold accused criminals as well as those convicted of crimes.

HIME ROMERO/The Bulletin

POSTED February 4, 2010 1:51 a.m.

The November ballot could include a half cent sales tax designed to generate $40 million to pay for the staffing and operations of an expanded San Joaquin County Jail.

A survey conducted on behalf of the Joint City/County Criminal Justice Task Force charged with coming up with ways to fund the expanded jail once it is built revealed that a sales tax was much more palatable with voters than a parcel tax or a community facilities district tax.

The task force will meet Feb. 10 to review a public information and education strategy expected to cost $500,000. Manteca’s share of that would be roughly $40,000.

Police Chief Dave Bricker said that is all the city will be asked to put up. However, he noted that the state is moving toward no longer reimbursing cities for booking costs at the jail which means those costs will be shifted to the municipal general fund regardless of whether the jail is expanded.

Bricker said the task force’s consultant showed 47 percent of the voters favoring it and 48 percent against the sales tax.

“It is going to be very difficult to get a sales tax passed in the current economic climate,” Bricker said.

Manteca’s Measure M sales tax will not be impacted by the proposed jail sales tax. State law allows cities to have up to 1 cent on the dollar in special sales tax and counties up to 2.5 cents while there is no limit on what the state can level. Manteca’s current 9.75 percent sales tax reflects the 6.25 cent regular sales tax, 1 cent temporary tax for state deficit, 1 cent local sales tax via state law, half cent San Joaquin County Measure K tax for transit, and Manteca’s special half cent sales for public safety.

The county jail has been inadequate in terms of capacity for years forcing judges to release many inmates much earlier than their sentences. At the same time, criminals – unless they are accused of a violent crime – are often simply booked and turned loose often beating the police officers who arrested them back on the street as the cops are required to fill out paperwork.

San Joaquin County has been allocated $80 million from Assembly Bill 900 to build the jail. If the county builds the jail and it is not occupied within 45 days of completion, language in the legislation allows the state to take it over to house their prisoners.

The completed jail expansion will add $47.5 million in operating costs or $68 per capita for the entire county.

County has one of lowest jail cells per 1,000 residents ratio in California
San Joaquin County has one of the lowest jail cell ratios per 1,000 residents among California counties with 1,333 rated beds. The jail averages 1,566 inmates a day plus 1,000 on alternate work programs or home detention who — if approved for such an option — pick up the cost themselves in exchange for the privilege of not serving time behind bars.

Under the court-imposed jail limit, essentially only those who are arrested for violent crimes tend to stay in custody while those involved in misdemeanors and non-violent felonies such as burglary and auto theft are processed and released.

Even with doing that, the county has no choice but to drastically cut time off the jail sentences of those convicted and sentenced to make room for more criminals at the jail.

Sheriff Steve Moore has noted under sentencing guidelines those convicted can qualify for a reduction of 10 percent for good behavior. When the jail gets crowded, they have to go through a list of those serving time. First, they look for those who have served more than 50 percent of their sentence. They are released early and don’t have to return. Then they go down to 40 percent of time served. The sheriff’s office has been forced to drop down as far as those who have only served 20 percent of their sentence to release them back on the street so the county isn’t in violation of state laws, which could open them up to civil litigation from the criminals they incarcerate.

That means someone sentenced to a year in jail could end up serving just over two months.

San Joaquin County has received approvable to secure state funds made possible by Assembly Bill 900 to expand the jail. The first phase — which the county has the matching funds for — will add 1,280 beds and cost $116 million. The second phase — if the county can match that grant as well— would cost $59.6 million —and bring jail capacity up to 2,933 beds by adding 320 more beds. By the year 2018, SJ County may end up tripling the number of beds they now have at the jail.

And that could take the county off the court-mandated cap and reduce crime.

It will cost $80 million in 2018 to run an expanded jail that could — pushing the limit— house 3,075 inmates. The two additional phases will add $47.5 million is that cost. Coming up with that additional money is now the challenge for the San Joaquin County Board of Supervisors.
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