May 25, 2022

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Supervisors To Decide On Contractor For West County Detention Expansion

3 min read

The Contra Costa County Board of Supervisors will decide Tuesday whether to award a $95.5 million dollar contract to Montana-based Sletten Construction Company to design and re-build a more modern, expanded West County Detention Facility in North Richmond.

The new facility would also relieve overcrowding in the Martinez Detention Facility (MDF), where capacity has been stretched to nearly double what it was designed.

The West County Reentry, Treatment and Housing (WRTH) project would include five new secure housing units, a medical treatment center, space for a reentry program, and new family visitation facilities.


Most of the project’s funding comes from a $70 million grant from the State of California, authorized by Senate Bill 844, and $25.5 million from the county’s general fund, appropriated in previous fiscal years.

If approved, it’s estimated the county will end up spending another $18 million on county staff and consultants, $5 million on equipment, and $8 million on contingency costs, bringing the entire project’s price tag to $126.5 million

Contra Costa County has three detention facilities: MDF, the West County Detention Facility (WCDF), and the low-security Marsh Creek Detention Facility in East Contra Costa County.

MDF is currently the only one of the three equipped for higher-security inmates and, built in 1977, now has capacity for 695 adults. WCDT, built in 1987, is a medium-security facility that holds up to 1,096 adults.

The staff report for Tuesday meeting notes that the country’s approach to incarceration has changed since Contra Costa built any new detention facilities. The approach has shifted from incarceration to a more therapeutic rather than punitive approach, with more emphasis on treatment, education and training to prepare inmates for re-entry into society.

Two other factors now influence the type of detention centers the county needs. As the state tries lowering its prison population, it’s reassigning some long-term incarceration responsibilities back to its counties, thanks to Assembly Bill 109, passed in 2011.

There’s also an increasing proportion of inmates with significant mental health and other medical issues in the system, requiring more advanced treatment than the state can give, due to the closing of state treatment facilities.

As part of a 2020 litigation settlement with the Prison Law Office, the county agreed to expand medical, mental health treatment and programming space in its detention facility system.

“The WRTH project is a significant step in meeting those consent decree requirements,” says the staff report.

However, the original project scope was reduced due to the pandemic and delays in the grant approval process, as construction costs went up.

The current WRTH proposal is for 288 high-security beds, 96 of which are still mental health treatment beds, and all the reentry, family reunification and workforce readiness spaces from the initial proposal. The project was reduced by 128 general population beds to preserve all the medical, treatment and programming spaces.

There will be classroom and visitation space, detox space, a day room, larger program rooms, and 32 beds for inmates with serious mental health illness. The medical facility will include dental and optometry spaces. There will also be a vocational training room.

There won’t be an increase in beds in the Contra Costa system. As soon as the new project is complete, 288 beds will be removed from the MDF, reducing its rated capacity of beds registered with the State of California Board of State and Community Corrections (BSCC) from the current 695 beds to 407 beds.

The Martnez facility was originally constructed for single occupancy cells with a rated capacity of 384.

MDF will remodel space for added mental health treatment, new plumbing, and ADA improvements.

Requests for proposals were sent out earlier this year, and staff determined Sletten Construction was the best choice. Supervisors will vote Tuesday on whether to formally approve Sletten for the job.

With approvals in place, the county hopes to have final design done in November 2022, with construction starting a few weeks later. They hope to have the new facilities running by the end of November 2024.

The Contra Costa Board of Supervisors meets virtually at 9 a.m. Tuesday, and can be seen at https://cccounty-us.zoom.us/j/87344719204 or on the county website at www.contracosta.ca.gov.

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