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Santa Barbara Co. supervisors to consider expansion of Northern Branch Jail in Santa Maria

Northern branch jail
Posted at 4:48 PM, May 15, 2023

On Tuesday morning, the Santa Barbara County Board of Supervisors will consider plans for an expansion project at the Northern Branch Jail in Santa Maria.

Right now, the Santa Barbara County Main Jail houses just over 740 inmates, but if supervisors approve the Santa Maria Northern Branch Jail expansion, that number could be reduced to 128.

A proposal from the County of Santa Barbara is recommending supervisors approve the construction of a new pod at the Santa Maria jail that would increase the number of inmate beds from 376 to 728.

The proposal comes roughly three years after a class-action lawsuit was filed against the county, claiming dangerous and unconstitutional jail conditions due to overcrowding at the Main Jail in Santa Barbara.

A settlement was ultimately reached, requiring the county to ensure an adequate number of beds, clothes and other necessities for its inmates.

County leaders are also proposing additional plans at the Main Jail to improve medical and mental health screenings for inmate intakes, as well as renovations to comply with ADA requirements.

If approved, the Northern Branch Jail expansion project is expected to cost around $76 million with a construction timeline of just over five years.