SANTA ANA – Even during its highest-revenue-generating years, the two decade-old Santa Ana Jail operated at a loss. The bleeding was exacerbated in May, when U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement terminated its contract that brought roughly $11 million per year to the city.
As of Wednesday morning, Aug. 2, the inmate population at the 512-bed facility was 204, Jail Administrator Christina Holland reported.
A divided city council that has been at odds on the direction of the facility it inherited, primarily over ICE’s presence in the heavily immigrant community, agreed on one thing – investing in a jail reuse study.
The city council on Tuesday, with David Benavides and Sal Tinajero absent, received an update on the study and voted on three operational matters, including a proposal that would boost the facility’s inmate occupancy by about 85 percent.
“Together, they tell a story of what we’re trying to do and recommendations on how we see this moving forward from the staff perspective and to get the council’s perspective,” Acting City Manager Cynthia Kurtz said.
Jail reuse study is about 35 percent complete
Vanir Construction Management Inc., which the city retained in April to produce the reuse study, has so far only completed a conditions assessment of the facility.
Compared to similar medium-sized correctional facilities, Santa Ana Jail is “a little on the deficient side” in space, with about 350-square-feet per inmate instead of 400-square-feet, said Jim Aboytes, a project director with Vanir.
“How you maintain that is reduce the population — then you’ll have more space — and repurpose some of the space for other uses,” Aboytes said.
Criminal justice detention reuse options Vanir introduced include a temporary holding facility; Type 2 jail (for detaining prisoners pending arraignment, during a trail, or after a sentence); California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation transitional reentry facility; and contract jail to the Orange County Sheriff’s Department or Federal Bureau of Prisons.
“Out-of-the-box” reuse options Vanir received from council and community members include a mental health facility, data center, police evidence storage site, homeless shelter, youth hostel, and hotel.
Councilman Vicente Sarmiento said he was “disappointed” and had hoped Vanir would have more information and conducted more outreach to the community.
“I don’t think we’re moving at the right pace. I don’t…