Tuesday, September 24, 2013

School and Community Resource Officer Program

We all know that the best way to combat crime in our community is early prevention. There is no better way to stop crime, before it happens, than by stopping our young people from going down a path of gangs and drugs. Under our current Sheriff, we have one deputy designated as a School Resource Officer, and our Community Resource Officer programs have been decimated. The Sheriff will tell you that we cannot afford to have these programs now, but I say we cannot afford NOT to have these programs. Helping lower income families and schools, that struggle to keep our children on the right path, is not a priority of our current Sheriff. For years the Sheriff’s Department led the way in our community with helping children, their families and schools in their time of need. There was a period of time, before our current Sheriff eliminated our programs, in which we went three years in the county without a gang homicide. This was because we were an integral partner in our schools and community. We gave these children role models that they could look up to. We provided the youth an alternative to gangs and drugs. We helped teach them skills that would allow them to choose a different path rather than the one in which they believed was their only way out. We worked with children during the school day and after school, so that they did not have to hang out with gangs or run the streets, which would inevitably, lead them straight to trouble. Our community centers use to be the hub of juvenile programs. Centers ran by the Human Services Agency, partnered with the Sheriff’s department to provided tutoring, recreation programs, but most importantly mentoring. When the Sheriff eliminated the Community Liaison Deputy, he eliminated these programs. Programs that gave our children a chance for success. I will invest in our children’s future by bringing back these programs.

Portable Jail Housing

 As we crack down on crime in San Joaquin County, in Stockton in particular, we cannot avoid the need for jail space.  The revolving door at the San Joaquin County Jail is exasperating the fight to take back our streets.  The numbers just don’t add up and our correctional facility is overcrowded and in need of inmate housing now. My recommendation to add jail space is not adhering to the old mantra of increasing incarceration without attempting to break the cycle of crime and recidivism.  However, without that “one empty bed” in our jail we will not have the proverbial hammer needed to assure criminals choose a path of non-violence and reentry into law abiding society.
   Correctional facilities around the United States are choosing modular prison housing as an efficient and quick space solution to ease overcrowding.  It is time San Joaquin County considers the modular option. 
   Actually, we must ask ourselves what took so long? In 2012, Sheriff Moore released 2,000 offenders at the direction of courts caused by overcrowding at the jail.  These inmates were released before the end of their sentences, and many defendants (not yet sentenced) were released from the jail while still awaiting a trial.  The effect on the criminal justice and public safety is profound.  What is disturbing is our current sheriff has been chasing an unrealistic plan to build a new jail we cannot afford.  The modular solution has been there all this time. Recently, CNN did a story looking at the impact of AB109 on San Joaquin County Jail overcrowding.   They focused on a homicide which occurred from a violent inmate who was released.  What CNN didn't know was Sheriff Moore had already spent $9,000,000 (nine million dollars) on a jail that was never built and was always unrealistic. This could have added 1,000 beds under a modular construction plan.
   Modular housing is a more time efficient solution to inmate overcrowding because buildings can be completed 30-50 percent faster than with traditional construction. This is particularly helpful for correctional facilities needing an immediate solution. In addition to its speed, modular construction also results in less site disruption and reduced material waste.
   What is even more compelling is the cost savings.  Modular housing is a fraction of the cost of traditional jail construction.  By most conservative estimates, modular construction is a third of the cost.
   Modular buildings can be custom designed to suit the needs of each correctional facility with many flexible design options. The different modular options include inmate housing, minimum and medium security buildings, medical facilities, juvenile detention facilities and guardhouses.  Buildings can be a temporary or permanent solution and range from single story open floor bunking to multi-story secluded dormitories.
   This flexibility in design will help us manage inmate housing with the ebb and flows of staffing resources.  We can build small pods allowing us to incrementally add jail beds and staff.  This will avoid the terrible choice our Sheriff forced on the San Joaquin County Board of Supervisors. Under Sheriff Moore’s plan it was all or nothing.  Either add new staff for 1,200 more beds or do nothing.  This was the choice our Supervisors faced when they correctly voted down Sheriff Moore’s new jail.  Now they have a reasonable choice. 
   Modular buildings meet or exceed the same construction codes as traditionally built inmate facilities. In addition, modular buildings adhere to all federal, local and state security and safety concerns. Buildings can be equipped with bulletproof glass, surveillance systems and security doors.    Modular construction is the best way to meet the needs of inmates and the San Joaquin County community.  New jail space is a critical component for a safe community.  When we are safe, our economy and quality of life will flourish.  It is time for new ideas like modular jail expansion.  We cannot continue down the path of avoidance and neglect.  The result has been a deterioration of the quality of life in our community.  We all deserve more.

Carrying a Concealed Weapon

  I wish we lived in a world where our citizens didn't have to worry about protecting themselves or their neighbors, but we do. I pray no one will have to go through what my family and I have gone through.  As a deputy, I have been required to use my weapon to protect the public.  Unfortunately I’m sure some law-abiding citizens will likewise face situations where they will need to use a weapon to protect their families and neighbors. I’m certainly not going to keep one of our good citizens from having the ability to protect himself, his neighbors or our families in a time of crises and violence. 

I, like you, have heard all the rhetoric on both sides of this debate. There are always extreme examples for why people shouldn't carry guns and why people should be allowed to carry guns. But what doesn't change is the reality that, sadly, a lot of times bad guys have guns. Until the day comes where we don’t have to worry about bad guys having guns then good people are going to have to step up and help protect one another until we in law enforcement have a chance to get there and take over. I believe that if you have no mental health problems, no criminal background which precludes you from owning a gun, and you have the physical and mental ability to operate a firearm safely, then everyone should have equal access to obtain a Concealed Weapon Permit.