Tuesday, November 30, 2021     Volume: 22, Issue: 39
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Santa Maria Sun / Canary

The following article was posted on November 23rd, 2021, in the Santa Maria Sun - Volume 22, Issue 39 [ Submit a Story ]
The following articles were printed from Santa Maria Sun [santamariasun.com] - Volume 22, Issue 39

Thorny issues

By THE CANARY

Do we actually think the Northern Branch Jail will open in December 2021? 

I can’t even count then number of stories the Sun has run about when Santa Barbara County’s newest $110 million to $120 million detention facility is going to open. First it was September 2018, then it was August 2019, then May 2020, then August 2021, now it’s December 2021. So I’m thinking May or August 2022. 

A ribbon-cutting ceremony makes it seem more likely that the county will hit its latest opening deadline, but then again, said festivities were held in mid-November even though the jail isn’t actually open yet—which I don’t understand. Why hold a ribbon-cutting ceremony if the jail isn’t open yet? 


So everyone can wax poetic about how great it’s going to be when it finally does open! 

Sheriff Bill Brown is planning to revitalize lives with his very expensive pet project! 

“It began as a quest for solutions to address the significant and chronic overcrowding at the Main Jail, but it evolved into a way of finding smarter and more effective ways to incarcerate and reform offenders, reduce recidivism, and make our community safer,” he said.

In other words, we’re going to get better at getting people into our jail system—as soon as we open this place and stop talking about it in the future tense. And hopefully (Fingers crossed!) all this money we just spent means they won’t come back after we let them out! One thing’s for sure, though: Once this facility opens, it can no longer be the “future solution” to all of the Main Jail’s perpetual systemic issues.

The Main Jail will continue to be a thorn in this county’s side even after this golden nugget of a detention center opens—even with the $24 million Band-Aid that county supervisors recently bequeathed to Brown so he could fix some of the Main Jail’s issues because the county was sued over disability rights. There aren’t any plans to close it and I fully expect “repairs” to take forever. 

You know what else is a thorn in the sheriff’s side? The Regional Fire Communications Facility that the Santa Barbara County Board of Supervisors just approved to move forward! Brown told supervisors that the center would delay response times to calls for emergency services, and besides that, he added, the county’s response to major disasters is great thanks to the Sheriff’s Office control over dispatch—so obviously nothing needs to change. 

But the issue isn’t with major disaster response, is it? It’s all of those run-of-the-mill, everyday emergencies that this regional dispatch center will tackle. Plus, fire and emergency responders have had an issue with the way the Sheriff’s Office runs the county’s dispatch center for years now—including not being able to dispatch the closest resource, which impacts response times (Duh!)—and those complaints and requests for change have gone largely unanswered, as 2nd District Supervisor Gregg Hart pointed out during the Nov. 16 meeting. 

“I think that there have been opportunities to do things differently to collaborate; and those opportunities weren’t taken by the sheriff’s department, but they were taken by the fire agencies,” he said. “That’s why every single fire chief is here today in this room in solidarity with this plan.”

The canary always collaborates with the canary. Send thoughts to canary@santamariasun.com.










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