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The big house will expand 

Satisfied that the San Luis Obispo County Sheriff’s Department isn’t simply seeking more shelf space for female inmates, SLO County supervisors on Feb. 22 decided to move forward with a $36.4 million expansion for the county’s women’s jail.

This follows a September 2010 hearing in which a majority of the supervisors shied away from the project—out of fear the state might pull about $25 million in funding and that there wasn’t enough emphasis on rehabilitative programs—and requested that law enforcement come back with a refined proposal. Come back they did, accompanied by a media blitz leading to the public hearing, which itself was filled with a parade of officials from the Sheriff’s Department, Probation Department, and a rare public appearance from District Attorney Gerry Shea.

Sheriff Ian Parkinson told county supervisors the jail is too crowded to sufficiently provide counseling and other services aimed at curbing recidivism in a 48-bed facility that often houses 73 inmates. A new facility, Parkinson and other officials said, will allow for more beds and space for classes and other rehabilitation services.

Supervisor Bruce Gibson noted the facility seemed to be moving from a “lock up” to “a facility that provides a solution.”

SLO County was one of 11 jurisdictions selected to receive a portion of $1.2 billion in state funds under Assembly Bill 900. County officials have set aside a $10 million match.

The new jail would include a 38,000- square-foot housing unit, medical facility, and new security system. Officials said they’re pursuing an expansion of alternative programs, such as home detention. Construction is expected to take three years to complete.

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