Ambivalent about the proposed NEW Napa Jail

Ambivalent about the proposed NEW Napa Jail
Ambivalent about the proposed NEW Napa Jail
  • People are Incarcerated
  • Jails are Needed
  • How Nice?
  • How New?

Incarceration. It happens. People are locked up – we all understand that comment.

Rehabilitation, training, education, vocational opportunities – yes, if we offer that, and a person chooses to learn, make a U-turn from their criminal life and walk a different path, then kudos to the system.

But how many really do that?  According to the Crime Museum, “Unfortunately, research has consistently shown that time spent in prison does not successfully rehabilitate most inmates, and the majority of criminals return to a life of crime almost immediately.” Go here for more info –

As most of society, I am a true believer of rehab. When we get a person educated with a diploma or GED they feel better about themselves and more hopeful for the future.  Where is the gap?  Possibly Napa is addressing that by focusing on mental health.  While many inmates have mental health issues, only recently have we been offering therapy and counseling services to address this problem.

The speaker at the Napa Sunrise Rotary meeting today, Jan 28, 2016, Lenard Vare with the Napa County Jail, did a great job explaining Napa’s effort to deal with inmates’ mental disorders and psychological issues.  Vare said, “Mental illness is a large factor for Napa’s incarcerated, actually exceeding the State averages.” Unfortunately, after the earthquake the Napa Jail has 25% less space for therapy, training classes and inmate cells.

Mr. Vare told the Sunrise Rotary that Napa rents cells from Solano County for inmates they cannot house.  Plus, when the capacity is way over the limit, Vare goes monthly to a Napa judge seeking early release for some of the lessor offenders.

Vare also explained the need for Napa to build a new jail, which will cost about $200 million.  This is a huge amount of money that will be offset by some grants, the sale of some property and will also need a bond on the ballot.  As one that is virtually NEVER supportive of a bond, after this presentation it sounded like a win/win for Napa.  I immediately started thinking about a spending oversight team and cost-cutting measures for construction. We have all heard horror stories of the $5 million dollar bathroom and $200,000 hammers.  Napa, if we do go forward with this bond, let’s be really practical.  After all, our military sleep in the blazing hot sand, sans air conditioning, and can go months without real showers.  How much luxury does an inmate really need?  What is the line between adequate and abundance?  Offering housing, dental, medical, television, meals, clothing, rehab, sports, recreation, education, therapy and cleaning services in an adequate manner is ok. But let’s be real and scale it all back.  Abundance is offered to those of us not incarcerated.

I would love to see Napa do more of the Mary Butler stuff of prevention; do more of the Toni McIntosh things of diversion.  Can we do a bond for keeping people OUT of incarceration?  Can we house, train, educate and offer therapy to those that have not yet offended but are heading that way?  Wow! Does that seem like a better plan?

Today Lenard Vare told us that Napa has a mission to work with inmates for rehab. Statistics show that if an inmate sticks with a rehab program they can improve their life.  The Crime Museum says:  Prisons also offer classroom settings in which inmates can learn to read and educate themselves.  These methods are proven to have a positive effect on the offenders and have helped many to overcome a background of little or no education.  Upon their release, offenders who have stuck with these programs are given a better opportunity to succeed and to become law-abiding citizens.

This is exactly what Mr. Lieberstein and Mr. Vare were saying today.  If the inmates will stick with a program they can improve their life. But how do we get people to step up and WANT to stick with things?  Therapeutic services could play a role in the stick-to-itness road to success.

We all know rehabilitation is a hard, long and tough road. It’s extremely difficult. I love this comment, again from the Crime Museum: “Inmates are segregated from the general public and forced to live in a society with people for whom crime is a way of life.  For many, time spent behind bars will push them farther into a life of crime, but for others, the horrors of prison life and the lessons they learn there are enough to deter them from committing crimes again in the future.”

Napa what should we do?  Build or not?  Please share your thoughts with me.  See, I began this by saying, “Ambivalent about the Proposed NEW Napa Jail.”