California News

May 18, 2012 9:32 PM by Hope Hanselman, KSBY News

San Luis Obispo County Jail works to relieve jail overcrowding

A plan to reduce overcrowding in California's prisons is increasing crowding at county jails.

The California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation says the prison realignment law will reduce the prison population significantly by June 27, 2013.

But for local county jails, it means more inmates who have committed more serious offenses. San Luis Obispo County found a way to ease the overcrowding.

Two old trailers, used before for training purposes, are being transformed into jail cells.

"Eight months ago this room was filled with DARE extra stuff and old computers," said San Luis Obispo County Sheriff's Department Commander Aaron Nix.

In less than a year they've added 24 beds, a recreational room, classrooms, toilets and shower.

Plumbing, electric wires and security features were all updated and installed on the facilities.

In just a few months, they'll be fully functional jail cells for at least 24 female inmates.

Nix says the female jail is in the most need of relief.

"We're at critical mass there. The overcrowding is a daily issue for us."

It's all because the counties are taking on the prison's problem and the prison's inmates, which, Nix says, is a different kind of offender than most jails are used to.

"More sophisticated, more structured, much more gang affiliation than we're dealing with now," he said.

These inmates are also serving longer sentences. The bill AB 109 extended the amount of time an offender might serve in jail. In Santa Barbara County, one inmate is serving 23 years.

But the problem is far from over.

"We don't know how it's going to affect us fully. We don't know how many number's going to get," Nix said.

Which means the dorm-style cell could house more than the 24 inmates they originally planned.

The trailers aren't expected to last permanently, though.

Nix calls it a "short-term solution." The female jail will be expanded in September.

"We've attacked this full-force," Nix said.

But there's still a long road ahead. Nix says the trailers will most likely be used again after the female jail is expanded. They say they'll need it to help with overflow in the men's jail.

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