Nov 5, 2015
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Contra Costa County has lost its bid for an $80 million state grant that it hoped to use toward expanding its Richmond jail and boosting its re-entry services, according to local officials and the Contra Costa Times.

The plan faced stiff opposition from activists and city officials in Richmond, which filed a lawsuit challenging the county’s environmental analysis for the project at West County Detention Center, 5555 Giant Highway in Richmond.

However, the Times learned that the county’s failure to meet an important deadline may have been just as detrimental to its application for the $80 million slice of state construction bonds. Back in August, the county was eight days late in filing its environmental impact report, the newspaper reported.

Either Richmond’s legal action or the county’s missed deadline penalized the project and caused it to fall below proposals from other counties in a state ranking system (see chart below).


Losing the $80 million grant cripples the Richmond jail project, which was expected to cost $90 million. The funds would have come from state construction bonds earmarked by Senate Bill 863. The grants are aimed at boosting rehabilitation and re-entry services in the state’s county jails.

Supporters of the Richmond project say the county has lost out on an opportunity to provide its inmates with crucial services to help them lead successful lives upon returning to society. They cite outdated and overcrowded conditions at the Martinez Detention Facility, where inmate on inmate violence was said to be on the rise.

The Richmond jail project included building a new maximum-security jail facility at the West County Detention Center that would have had more than 31,000 square-feet dedicated to vocational and rehabilitative  programming, mental health care and other services. Under the plan, about 400 inmates from the Martinez jail, which lacks space for rehab programs, would be transferred to the Richmond facility.

Anti-incarceration activists, however, distrusted the project, believing it would mean an increase in county inmates. Some argued for increasing rehabilitative services in communities rather than jail facilities. Sheriff David Livingston had also been accused by Mayor Tom Butt of attempting to push through the grant application process without alerting the Richmond community or working with the city on the project.

Even if the county won the $80 million grant, the project would still have remained in question. A crucial vote by Supervisor John Gioia at a county board meeting in August rejected setting aside county funding toward programming and staffing at the facility, which would cost at least $4.4 million annually.

“The application was opposed by the Richmond City Council for a number of reasons, the most important being that there was no tangible commitment to fund the mental health and re-entry services that were to be housed in the expanded facility,” Butt said in his e-forum Tuesday.


About the Author

Mike Aldax is the editor of the Richmond Standard. He has 13 years of journalism experience, most recently as a reporter for the San Francisco Examiner. He previously held roles as reporter and editor at Bay City News, Napa Valley Register, Garden Island Newspaper in Kaua’i, and the Queens Courier in New York City.