Madera County breaks ground on jail expansion project

MADERA COUNTY, Calif.

The turn of shovels marked the start of a large jail expansion project in Madera County.

Ronn Dominici, Madera County Supervisor said, "We will now be able with this $30 million grant to add 144 beds to our jail."

Corrections officials say the space is needed, especially since the state plans to start sending tens of thousands of prisoners to local jails over the next two years.

Lt. Jerry King said, "And we're one of the few counties in the state of California that will be prepared for that."

Supervisor David Rogers says it will also keep this community from facing the early inmate releases that plague Fresno County.

Rogers said, "We know that public safety is our number one obligation and we refuse to let it happen in Madera County."

Madera County officials say the jail expansion will also create a safer environment for inmates and correctional officers.

Lt. King said, "Inmate population management is a huge thing in county jails, so we're gonna be able to better do that, and it's gonna be a safer environment to work."

Supporters add the facility will create construction and correctional jobs. But opponents argue the state funding could have been better spent.

Debbie Reyes, Calif. Prison Moratorium Project Dir. said, "Overall we'd rather see the money go into healthy community resources such as rehabilitation, schools."

Residents have also expressed concerns because the county had to agree to provide space for a prisoner re-entry facility near the jail in exchange for the state grant.

Reyes said, "I think that prisons are a cycle of violence so bringing that cycle of violence into our rural communities is not healthy either."

The expansion is expected to be complete by 2013.

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