(Update Oct. 7, 2014)
WHAT IS THE EAST COUNTY DETENTION CENTER AND WHY IS IT NEEDED?
The Riverside County Jail in Indio has been located in downtown Indio since its original construction in 1959, and it holds approximately 350 inmates. The existing jail houses about 9 percent of the county’s inmate population, while the Coachella Valley is home to approximately 20 percent of the county’s population. Population growth in the Coachella Valley and within Riverside County has necessitated the expansion of our county jail system and the need for additional inmate housing and medical treatment areas.
As a result, the East County Detention Center (ECDC) is currently being developed by the County of Riverside on the site of the existing jail in downtown Indio. Upon completion, about 1,600 jail beds will replace the 350-bed facility.
The ECDC and related work represent a $400 million county investment in the Coachella Valley’s public safety infrastructure and will support construction, maintenance and professional jobs for many years to come. It will ultimately generate approximately 450 new permanent county jobs, adding approximately $50 million annually to our local payroll.
HOW WILL THIS IMPROVE PUBLIC SAFETY?
In Riverside County, population growth has outpaced jail construction for many years. Prisoners are being released early on a daily basis because Riverside County possesses too few jail beds. Additional jail capacity is badly needed to reduce overcrowding. Due to early releases, the Probation and Sheriff’s departments’ efforts to provide programming opportunities designed to reduce prisoner recidivism are severely hampered. Due to insufficient jail space, prisoners know if they do not participate in such programs, they have a good chance of being released early.
WILL MORE PRISONERS BE RELEASED INTO OUR DOWNTOWN INDIO STREETS?
No. Currently, once a prisoner has served his or her time, he or she has the right to be released. However, in nearly all cases, prisoners are released back into the community where they last resided or from the jail nearest from where they were arrested. So the number of prisoners released in Indio will not be much different than today. Inmates are always given the opportunity, upon release, to arrange for transportation if needed.
HOW IS PRISONER TRANSPORTATION AFFECTED?
Multiple prisoners are bused around the county every day due to the jail bed shortage and court dates. The ECDC will dramatically reduce the number of prisoner transport miles traveled in the Coachella Valley and the county. The average number of criminal cases pending at the Indio courthouse is 900 at any given time. With only 350 jail beds, many prisoners must be transported to court by bus from other county jails, sometimes daily. While prisoner escapes are extremely rare, this new facility will dramatically reduce the number of prisoner transport miles, resulting in improved public safety and decreased costs.
DOES VISITATION OF PRISONERS DRAW A BAD ELEMENT TO DOWNTOWN?
The county is piloting video visitation in other jail facilities and planning that most visitation at the ECDC will be done remotely. Most visitors will not have to drive to the jail.