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Santa Clara County supervisors delay jail building decision

Santa Clara County Jail Map.jpg
Flickr / Creative Commons
Santa Clara County Jail Map

Santa Clara County Supervisor Susan Ellenberg Monday requested the deferral of a decision on the management of the jail system. She said a report recommending the building of a 500-bed maximum security facility does not include specific information the board requested, specifically alternatives to incarceration for people with mental illness.

The proposed facility would provide full behavioral health and medical care services.

Local anti-jail advocates have lobbied aggressively against the board’s plan to build a new jail. Santa Clara lawmakers had made this decision after hearing a proposed mental health center would take years to build -- and inmates would be housed in crumbling facilities during the interim.

Like many activists, Cynthia Longs, a community member and the mother of a detainee, told the San Jose Spotlight that the county doesn't need a new place to incarcerate more people. She said that she hopes the county will instead invest in preventative treatment to keep mentally ill people out of jail.

This debate is taking place at a time when the report to be considered by the board highlights severe strains on the jail system, such as the lack of appropriate housing and treatment space for inmates with serious mental illness.