County unveils new jail re-entry facility

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Created to help inmates return to community

The public and city and county officials got a chance to tour the new Rehabilitation and Re-entry Facility at the Santa Cruz County Rountree minimum security jail Friday in Watsonville. Photo by Tarmo Hannula

WATSONVILLE — Santa Cruz County corrections officials showed off their newest facility Friday, which was created to be a final stop for inmates before they are released.

The 16,000 square-foot Rehabilitation and Re-Entry Facility in Watsonville has 64 beds and offers educational and vocational program areas, classrooms, recreational areas, and improved areas for visitors. 

It is located at the at the Rountree Lane Sheriff’s Detention Facilities.

The $25 million facility was financed in 2012 through the Board of State and Community Corrections funding under SB 1022 in 2012. 

The county of Santa Cruz kicked in 10 percent matching funds that included the property, staff and cash, Santa Cruz County Sheriff Jim Hart said.

Construction began in September 2016. 

According to Hart, the Rountree Lane facility opened in the early 1970s as an “honor camp” for low-level inmates.

But as inmate population changed – and as the facility aged – jail officials shuttered the Rountree facility in 2008.

When money became available in 2012 through SB 2012, county officials applied for a chunk of the $500 million it offered for such projects.

The need for such facilities has grown since 2011, when Governor Jerry Brown signed Assembly Bills 109 and 117 into law.

Also known as Prison realignment, the laws require local jurisdictions to house and treat low-level offenders in county jails, and to help them return to their communities.

To meet that need, the re-entry facility will also offer vocational and drug rehabilitation programs, all of which are a way to ease the transition 

In addition, it is one of two county jail facilities that allows contact visits for inmates, which is considered an essential piece of inmate re-entry, Hart said.

Inside, the residential area lacks doors or cells. Instead, the open room has several single semi-private “cubbies” with a single bed and desk.

That allows for direct supervision, while giving inmates a modicum of autonomy, said Sheriff’s Lt. Fred Plageman, who will be managing the facility.

 “This place is going to be more like a school than a prison,” he said. 

Inmates will begin moving in by the end of June or beginning of July, Plageman said.


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