The Taxpayers for a Centralized Jail have recently qualified for the June, 1990, ballot an initiative that would place all future county jails in Santa Ana. On examining the logic of this proposal, we find it:
* Unnecessarily costly to the taxpayer.
* Structurally impractical.
* Geographically irrational.
* Misleading with respect to the transportation arguments.
* Legally unsound.
The initiative's intent is to locate all future jails in the county seat of Orange County and, furthermore, to stop the expansion of existing jail facilities that are outside the county seat.
The initiative's proponents feel that a centrally located jail would be more cost-efficient for the taxpayer. However, to date, the county has spent more than $5 million on impact reports and construction documents, which indicate that the Coal-Gypsum canyons site is the most feasible and practical location in Orange County. Changing sites at this time would be an unnecessary waste of public funds.
If Santa Ana were to allow the new 6,000-bed jail facility in the Civic Center area on existing property, the building would need to be over 40 stories high and would be adjacent to residential neighborhoods. This type of structure would be both impractical and costly in terms of inmate care and construction. If a new site for a properly sized building were to be assembled in the central Santa Ana area, hundreds of homes and businesses would have to be purchased through condemnation at an incredible cost in human as well as fiscal terms.
In the Civic Center area, the city of Santa Ana already houses 75% of current inmates in the county. In order for an additional 6,000-bed jail to be built in Santa Ana, it would need to be in the peripheral, less-developed areas, adjacent to the residential communities of Irvine, Tustin, Costa Mesa or Fountain Valley.
Regarding the transportation issue, the opponents argue that a jail site away from the courthouse, such as Coal-Gypsum canyons, would add to traffic and air pollution problems. However, since all pre-sentenced inmates requiring court appearances are and will be housed in the main jail in Santa Ana, a remote jail facility in Gypsum Canyon will not significantly aggravate transportation congestion.
On July 15, 1987, the Board of Supervisors made a legislative decision, which is not legally subject to initiative, to locate the jail in Coal-Gypsum canyons. Therefore, even if the initiative were adopted by the voters, its provisions would not apply to the Board of Supervisors' decision to locate the jail in Coal-Gypsum. This decision was made before the initiative's adoption or non-adoption.
As a responsible and concerned city, we are aware of the lack of sufficient jail space in the county that threatens the safety and quality of life for all our constituents. We urge the Board of Supervisors to address this problem and continue with its plans to finance and build a jail facility in Coal-Gypsum canyons.
DANIEL H. YOUNG
City of Santa Ana