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Sheriff unveils two jail designs
August 25, 2012, 05:00 AM By Michelle Durand, Daily Journal Staff
Jail planners are looking at two possible designs for the new facility — one that keeps both administration and inmates in a single building and another that splits the functions in two — but both share many elements like natural light, plenty of space for programs and areas for children to visit.

On Tuesday, the Board of Supervisors will get a first look at the two primary options which are still a work in progress but a fairly strong idea of the final 576-bed product. Sheriff Greg Munks said he’s not really looking for specific direction — there is no vote and his presentation is billed as an update, not a planning workshop —  but welcomes any feedback.

The first option is a low-rise building configuration with administrative/support services on the ground floor and inmate housing above. The second possibility is a mid-rise building configuration with administrative/support services in a two-story structure separate from inmate housing which will be located in a three-story building.

 Munks said both options incorporate design elements that grew from a "visioning” workshop earlier this year — natural light for inmates and staff, separation of male and female inmates, green areas on the interior and exterior of the facility, "robust” programming space, use of glass in public spaces and visiting areas for children.

Munks favors the second option and said after meeting with supervisors has a sense they may, too.

"The housing is on top of each other and in doing so it gives us a little more space on the ground. Where we put the transitional area is also better in option two ... there is just more opportunity for a nice project,” Munks said.

The second option would also have the "warm shell — unfinished space for future use — on the second floor and can be designed with separate, discrete entrance for those in transitional housing.

The designs take into consideration the needs of inmates with longer or extended stay lengths in a local facility under the state realignment.

Another consideration in choosing between the single and dual-building options is if the state provides up to $100 million in construction funding. The state must own buildings to use as collateral when issuing bonds so the first option would require it to completely own the single structure. Likewise, the county must own buildings to issue bonds so, unless the state covers all costs, each entity will have its own with a space maybe 15 feet in between.

The jail itself is estimated to cost approximately $155 million with roughly $25 to $27 million a year in operating expenses. County Manager John Maltbie will bring a financing plan back to the Board of Supervisors this fall.

 The current county jail has been over capacity for years, prompting officials to begin plans for a new facility. State realignment, in which some low-level state prisoners are being sent to local facilities, is increasing the need, county officials contend.

But while the jail planning team move forward with making a new correctional facility a reality, some groups continue opposing the project such as those who organized a Saturday town hall-style gathering of opposition in East Palo Alto.

  "Every penny we spend locking people up is taking away from funding for programs that build strong communities, keep people healthy and keep families together. We’re hurting ourselves twice — breaking up communities with jails, and robbing resources from the services that actually keep us safe,” Dorsey Nunn, executive director of Legal Services for Prisoners with Children and resident of Menlo Park resident, said in a prepared announcement of the gathering.

But Munks, like other advocates of a new facility, point out that a bigger, more modern jail will provide more opportunity for services and skills to successfully move back into the community.

"It’s such a unique and exciting opportunity. Nobody is doing anything like this,” Munks said.

Opening is scheduled for 2015.

The Board of Supervisors meets 9 a.m. Tuesday, Aug. 28 in Board Chambers, 400 County Government Center, Redwood City.

Michelle Durand can be reached by email: or by phone: (650) 344-5200 ext. 102.

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