Expansion of West County Detention Facility


Jesse Sutterley

An American flag wrapped around a pillar at the Martinez Corrections Facility representing police lives matter on 14 September

Jesse Sutterley, News Editor

Over the past three years the Contra Costa County Board of Supervisors (CCCBS) has been trying to push a $90 million expansion to Richmond’s West County Detention Facility. Last month the proposal passed through the CCCBS with a 3-1 vote and will be making its way to state officials. The proposal wants add 400 beds to West County as well as a new facility which will need to be built to move and house inmates humanly.

The Martinez detention facility, which was built to hold one inmate per cell currently houses twice that many. The expansion of West County would help depopulate the overcrowded Martinez facility where inmates are currently lacking mental health care, job training or basic rehabilitation services.

David Livingston, the Sheriff for Contra Costa County supports the bill claiming that it is necessary to better treat inmates and “ultimately makes our county safer.”

However Livingston’s opinion is not echoed by all members of the community. At the meeting members from Contra Costa Interfaith Supporting Community and Safe Return Project voiced their opposing opinions. Many carried signs that said “health care, not jails.”

This is not only a trend with the local community about the prison system as a whole across the country. In an article written by The Marshall Project titled I reviewed Jail on Yelp because I couldn’t afford a therapist, former inmates wrote reviews on prisons around the nation giving an insight to the reality behind bars.

“Food tasted like wet noodles and grill gristle” Jason A. wrote on Yelp about his experience at Rikers Island, “I later learned to get a Muslim halal card, and a Jewish card and know the kitchen staff to see which card would get me a better meal for the day.”

Currently the West County Detention Center has a two star rating on Yelp. “You carry your own mattress (a sack stuffed with straw, basically) and a change of jail issue clothes to a cell, where you meet your roommie. This is where most of the time is spent, door locked,” wrote Brooke C. in her review of West County.

Is it necessary to continue to expand our prison system or would it be more beneficial to create more opportunities to rehabilitate offenders outside of a 6-by-10 foot cell.

Long time death row inmate Mumia Abu Jamal stated in a podcast given from a Pennsylvania prison “Now, if we were to count all the people in U.S. prisons and jails, we would account for almost a quarter of the world’s prisoners. The actual figure comes to 23% of the worlds incarcerated from a country with a mere 5% of the worlds total population. Not since Rome have we seen such a fever for imprisonment.”