Benoit, Ashley to Ask for Halt to Whitewater Jail Planning Supervisors Committed to Studying Other Options in Tough Economic Times
RIVERSIDE – Faced with budget shortfalls that could delay a proposed Whitewater detention center for years, Supervisors John J. Benoit and Marion Ashley today announced they will ask board members to halt planning and reconsider options that could add jail beds faster and at a lower cost.
“The reality is we can’t afford this facility now or any time in the near future and we need to change course,” Benoit said. “Supervisor Ashley and I believe that, given changes in the economy and technology, expanding near existing county jails might offer options that reduce costs and can be implemented faster that the proposed ‘hub’ jail at Whitewater.”
At Tuesday’s Board of Supervisors meeting, Benoit and Ashley plan to ask county staff to bring the matter back for a vote later this month. The board would then have an opportunity to remove the regional facility as the county’s No. 1 priority in its capital-improvement program.
“Our first priority is to find additional jail space to keep criminals behind bars, and we believe this approach will get us to that day sooner,” Ashley said.
Amid community concern over the Whitewater project, Benoit and Ashley publicly committed in January to work with the Palm Springs Desert Resort Communities Convention & Visitors Authority (CVA) on an independent economic tourism study and to examine other sites for the regional detention center. The supervisors are recommending the CVA now cancel those plans.
In maintaining their commitment to study the issue further, Benoit and Ashley have reviewed the Whitewater project documentation and come to the conclusion there are alternatives for adding jail beds that may offer faster, incremental and more economical options.
“We hope this new direction can meet the need for additional jail beds sooner and at considerably less expense than the $300 million price tag at Whitewater,” Benoit said.