EXCLUSIVE: Money concerns over new jail staffing

County jail may open understaffed #JailJeopardy

Money concerns over new jail staffing

INDIO, Calif. - For the past two years, your tax dollars have been working hard to create a new county jail in Indio.

"The most modern jail in the county of Riverside," Assistant Sheriff Jerry Gutierrez said.

It's a $330 million project.

"A full medical clinic, 74 medical beds, as well as over 20 classrooms to deliver evidence-based recidivism classrooms," Gutierrez said.

We got an exclusive tour of the construction site, about a year out of phase one being complete. Concrete, steel, lumber, and tools - in plenty. However, Gutierrez says an important element of the new site is missing.

"There's been a bunch of constraints in the county of Riverside which we've seen as of late, for our next fiscal year budget. As of today, we don't have any additional hiring for this facility planned," he said.

So after all of this construction, "The concern is this jail opening in summer of 2018 and not having staff to open it. Even though we have an existing120 staff operating the current jail system, we will need an additional 45 just to even transfer the inmate population into this jail," Gutierrez said.

We brought those concerns to Ray Smith of Riverside County, asking if there is indeed a shortage of funds for the 405 employees needed to fully staff the jail.

"We'll open the jail to the best level possible when the time comes to open it," Smith
As far as how they'll make that happen, Smith says it's too soon to tell.

"We're focusing now on the fiscal year budget that starts July 1. We have to get that done first. We're facing a potential deficit largely because of actions of the state of $100 million in the coming year. The jail would be in the next fiscal year. So what we need to do now is get the budget done for the coming fiscal year and then we'll have time to talk about financial planning to know how to open the jail," Smith said.

The county says there's time to figure out the budget. Gutierrez hopes to at least hire those 45 employees so they can make that initial transfer of inmates.

"The project is a priority and we'll make sure it opens when the time comes," Smith said.

"It's going to have to open, but at what cost?" Gutierrez said.

Gutierrez says that cost is possibly over time, and perhaps something worse.

"So all this taxpayer money went into building this new jail but there might not be enough money to staff it. What does that mean?"Bianca Rae asked.

"At the end of the day, we will have to still exercise federal releases early if we don't have open jail beds. The issue at hand is not having the staff to open entire jail so we would have housing units we can't open," Gutierrez said.

In 2011, Governor Brown signed Assembly Bill 109, an effort to divert low-level offenders from crowded state prisons to local jails. 

Then local jails get full, too. 

"Since realignment has taken effect ... we have been forced to release nearly 38,000 inmates early because we operate under a court order that requires us to have a jail bed for every inmate that comes through," Gutierrez said.

"We're still a year out, we don't know what the need is going to be at that point in time. We will assess it and do the best we can," Smith said.

The county maintains the jail will open to fit the need next year.

"I'm hopeful that's possible," Gutierrez said.

The jail should open mid-2018. As for how many employees and inmates it will open with - and without - we will continue to follow that.


Check out more Special Reports from KESQ News Channel 3

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