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Amid outbreak, inmates moved from Main Jail to new Northern Branch Jail

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Posted at 2:27 PM, Jan 25, 2022

244 Santa Barbara County inmates moved into the Northern Branch Jail on Saturday.

The move comes during an ongoing COVID-19 outbreak at the Main Jail which caused 221 people to test positive for the virus since Dec. 8.

The Santa Barbara County Sheriff's Office said that the move to the northern branch would allow officials to decompress the population and control the spread of COVID at the Main Jail.

The new jail, located off Black and Betteravia Rds. in Santa Maria, offers inmates more direct supervision, which comes with free access to the day room, showers and yard time at the Santa Maria area jail. Deputies also get more time to talk with the inmates.

Officials told KSBY that not every inmate was eligible for the move north.

"We were able to prioritize the transfer of inmates that were either medically fragile or recently had recovered from COVID or were vaccinated against COVID to move them up here to this facility," Ryan Sullivan, Santa Barbara County Sheriff's Custody Commander at the Northern Branch Jail, told KSBY. "There was a thorough screening process with the sheriff's office and our contracted medical provider Wellpath to determine which inmates would be eligible to move up here."

Jonathan Boone, Santa Barbara County Sheriff Custody Deputy, described the additional precautions in place.

"We have medical [staff] testing them daily," Boone said of the inmates. "Anytime they leave the housing unit they're masked up. Staff are masked up at all times, so it should be a benefit for everybody to try to keep COVID at a minimum—try to keep it out of the facility as best we can."

In total, the Northern Branch Jail is a 376 bed facility, including 32 beds dedicated to medical and mental health patients in a specialized housing unit.