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Catch & release ground rules set
Takes into account police concerns about criminals
Law enforcement has established a hierarchy for whether suspects are cited or booked into San Joaquin County Jail. - photo by Bulletin file photo

An orchestrated game of “catch and release” with ground rules laid down by police chiefs throughout San Joaquin County is keeping criminal suspects viewed as bigger threats to society behind bars longer.

There is now room at the county jail on most days – although not much – that is making the perennial overcrowding issue more manageable for now.

“Things are working fairly well,” said Police Chief Dave Bricker of the grounds rules that Sheriff Steve Moore working with the county police chiefs group helped put in place.

Those basic rules allow:
•most misdemeanor crimes to lead to a citation and not a booking.
•if a person is a four-time repeater on misdemeanor charges they go to jail.
•departments that have a particular problem with a habitual misdemeanor offender can now have them jailed instead of cited due to more room being freed.
•for driving under the influence and domestic violence suspects to go to jail instead of facing the possibility of being booked and released due to overcrowding conditions.

The arrangement gives law enfacement more flexibility than judicial imposed guidelines on releases that was mandated by the California Supreme Court in response to concerns about prisoner overcrowding.

Bricker said that means most marijuana offenses are simply cases where they are arrested, cited, and released in the field.

Some of the pressure has been taken off the jail by successful efforts by police departments throughout the count working prosecutors to get many repeat felons convicted of crimes such as multiple instances of a vehicle theft and sent to state prison.

It has ended – for the most part – of officers driving suspects arrested for more serious crimes to be booked at the jail only to have them back on the streets of Manteca within hours.

Unfortunately severe limitations with juvenile hall which is overseen by the underfunded probation department often sees more serious juvenile offenders released almost immediately. Such was the case involving a teen who had broken into a rural Manteca home and was trying to sell stolen firearms to high school students in Manteca within a matter of hours. Police were working on other charges after chasing down some of the stolen gun and had gone to juvenile hall to further the case only to find out he had been released.

The juvenile hall capacity hasn’t been expanded since the 1960s.

The arrangement only makes the jail more manageable for the time being. The county still needs to expand jail capacity.

San Joaquin County has much of the money in hand to expand the jail. The big problem now is overstaffing costs.

Expansion staffing will
cost $68 per capita

It is going to cost $68 annually for every man, woman, and child to cover the cost of operating the proposed expansion of the San Joaquin County Jail.

That is the verdict of the Joint City/County Criminal Justice Task Force charge with coming up with ways to fund the expanded jail once it is built.

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. The three funding mechanisms being examined are a countywide sales tax slightly higher than a half cent, a parcel tax of at least $222 annually and a community facilities district.

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.

San Joaquin County has received preliminary 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 phases — 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.