Update: Proposed West County Detention Facility Expansion

On April 4 the El Cerrito City Council heard firm community opposition to Contra Costa Sheriff David Livingston’s planned expansion of the West County jail, from County Supervisor John Gioia among others. The Council then voted unanimously to oppose this expansion, which would cost County taxpayers more than $20 million for construction and $5 million annually to operate.

Supervisor Gioia indicated that the proposed new wing of the facility, adding 400 beds and about 120,000 square feet, would be unnecessarily large and far too costly for the county. It might also be used to house immigrants detained by the federal ICE program, bringing it into sharp conflict with El Cerrito’s status as a sanctuary city. Community members also expressed the strong opinion that the County should allocate more funds to services for the mentally ill and to follow-up services which reduce recidivism, rather than spending heavily on infrastructure.

Taking action on the vote, the City Council authorized the mayor to send a letter to the California Board of State and Community Corrections, opposing the Sheriff’s $70 million grant proposal for the jail expansion.

In retaliation for the Council’s vote, Sheriff Livingston put politics ahead of public service by backing out of a planned contract to provide lower cost Police and Fire dispatch services to El Cerrito.