Santa Clara County Supervisors Opt for Mental Health Treatment Center Instead of New Jail

Construction for the new 535-bed Main Jail South project in San Jose was suspended on Tuesday, and a mental health center may take its place instead,  Santa Clara County supervisors decided earlier this week.

During its regular biweekly meeting on Tuesday, the Santa Clara County Board of Supervisors unanimously agreed to halt the project and potentially build a mental health treatment center to provide care for mentally ill inmates in the county’s jail system.

The new center would be overseen by the Public Health Department and staffed by the county’s Behavioral Health Department. “At its core, the new facility should center on care first, jail last,” Supervisor Dave Cortese said.

Cortese first requested this shift in August 2020, after an administrative report detailing the progress and plans for the $390 million replacement of the Main Jail South was discussed at board meeting.

“With a low jail population caused by Covid-19 prevention and the growing need for mental health services, the county has the opportunity to re-envision how inmates are treated while in custody and, more importantly, how they can be diverted from custody in the first place,” Cortese said.

He noted that since March, the county prison population dropped more than a third, to about 2,100 people in jail, to reduce crowding and mitigate the spread of Covid-19 and still didn’t lead to a spike in crime rates. That, along with pushes from reform activists encouraged county leaders to shift support this unique proposal.

Alternate Public Defender Sajid Khan, a staunch reform advocate in the South Bay, was one of many voices during public comment in support of this initiative.

“What we’ve learned is that people’s paths to rehabilitation and our road to a safer community never runs through the jail,” Khan said. “While we support improving our current jails to make them more humane and more conducive to healing, this is a moment to reimagine and move away from mass incarceration as our answers to community ailments.”

The Main Jail South project, already several years in the works, was demolished over the summer and up for bid with a March 2021 award target. Now with that project on pause, county staff will return to the Board on Nov. 17 to study a similar move by Los Angeles County—a $1.7 billion jail-replacement project in August 2019.

The report will also examine inmate housing and mental illness, identify different approaches to provide mental health services and evaluate the impacts of having 1,000 inmates released back into the community under supervision because of Covid-19.

4 Comments

  1. > “With a low jail population caused by Covid-19 prevention and the growing need for mental health services, the county has the opportunity to re-envision how inmates are treated while in custody and, more importantly, how they can be diverted from custody in the first place,” Cortese said.

    What’s the difference between a jail and a mental health facility?

    Jail: bread and water and iron bars. Papers sheets on a thin cot. $10,000 per perp per year. Ineligible to vote Democrat.

    MHF: Culturally appropriate cuisine, health spa and gym, counseling, therapy, social activities and amenities, comfortable beds, clean sheets and janitorial services. $100,000 per year per “client”. Eligible and ENCOURAGED to vote Democrat.

  2. > After I fired Ms. Houghton, she went on to represent my ex-wife without disclosure to me. I was subsequently cut out of my childrens’ lives.

    I don’t know much about the lawyering business, but this sounds clearly unethical to me.

    How can an attorney represent a person, presumably receiving private and confidential information, and then switch sides and represent the former clients legal adversary?

    This doesn’t make sense.

    If the legal system works as described, there’s a problem.

  3. Since there seems to be some room in the jail now the county should seize this opportunity to cut costs and move the public defender’s office into it. Not only would this provide the attorneys ready access to their clients, but it would allow them to monitor the jail staff (making the jail “more humane and more conducive to healing”) as well as provide the attorneys an opportunity get to know their clients up close and personal (which should greatly improve their ability to assess them and their needs).

  4. Valerie Houghton, who is both a therapist and attorney, knew that my son was being molested and concealed that to get assets placed into trust. She uses restraining orders to get your ex to make false allegations to get you put into jail and cut you out of your kids lives.

    More to the point of this article, if you complain then she will have you arrested and use penal code section 1368 to have you declared mentally incompetent, even if you are indeed competent. If there is going to be a new mental health facility, there needs to be some policy put into place that safeguards competent people from this type of legal abuse.

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