MODESTO, Calif. — A recent staffing shortage in the Stanislaus County Sheriff’s Department is causing the early release of prisoners and several closures, resulting in less bed capacity available in the county.
About 60 prisoners were released in the past week as officials prepared for temporary closure of the inmate work quarters at the downtown Modesto jail, Capt. Bill Duncan told The Modesto Bee. These inmates were next on the list for early release. The unit housing inmates who perform janitorial work and food service officially closed on Feb. 10. The county is also considering vacating one or two minimum-security units, totaling 128 beds at the Public Safety Center.
There are currently 35 custodial deputy positions that are vacant, with about five more deputies expected to leave in the next several weeks. Additionally, 11 deputies that were hired in the past year are scheduled to attend mandatory academy training starting mid-February and won’t be available to report for duty until late March.
A memo notifying county leaders of the “operational emergency” reassigned personnel to cover shifts and asked that deputies assigned to court security work overtime in the jails.
The key reason that staff members are leaving the department is because they can find better pay and benefits at other California county jails and within the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation.
The current closure is only a temporary measure until more deputies are hired to fill the vacancies, Duncan told The Modesto Bee. The department will be able to reopen the vacated units at the Public Safety Center after the 11 deputies complete the six-week training on March 21. The county also plans to open the inmate work quarters by June 30, as more staff members are hired.
The county currently has 36 open positions, which can be tough to fill due to hiring practices and guidelines, reported ABC News 10. Additional staff members have been assigned to work on background checks, which can take about 40 hours, to speed up the hiring process. Stanislaus County is continuously hiring for custodial deputies, which offers a base salary ranging from $45,572 to $55,411.
Despite the staffing shortage, Stanislaus County plans on building more facilities at the Hackett Road complex. The state approved an $80 million grant for a 384-bed incarceration facility, which will feature two maximum-security housing units (each with 192 beds) and a 72-bed wing for inmates with medical and mental health needs, as well as a day reporting center for people on probation. The county will contribute $8.9 million in funding and also has $23 million for building support facilities for the center.
The Modesto Bee reported that seven contractors were prequalified to compete for a design-build contract for the jail expansion and support facilities. The facility may include an additional 96 beds if the contractor can deliver them within budgets. Nine contractors are competing for the day reporting center project.The jail expansion is scheduled for completion in late 2016, while the day reporting center could be completed as early as summer 2015.
The state denied the county’s request for $40 million to build a 228-bed, program-based incarceration facility for adult offenders, but the county plans to appeal the decision because the project would enable the county to nearly close the antiquated downtown jail.
Studies have shown that Stanislaus County was already in need of more jail capacity before realignment, which began in 2011, and that need has increased due to the fact that counties are now responsible for holding lower-level criminal offenders.