San Bernardino County Sheriff's Department hosts opening ceremony at High Desert Detention Center

San Bernardino County Sheriff's Department hosts opening ceremony at High Desert Detention Center

By Joe Nelson
San Bernardino County Sun, Calif.

Feb. 07--ADELANTO -- Hundreds of rank and file from the San Bernardino County Sheriff's Department and officials from across the county gathered at the High Desert Detention Center on Thursday to celebrate the opening of the expanded jail.

Three years in the making, the $145.4 million project added 1,392 new beds and increased the jail's footprint by 297,000 square feet to over 8 acres. It includes new medical and dental facilities that eliminate the need for deputies to transport inmates to West Valley Detention Center in Rancho Cucamonga for those services. In addition, the news beds will help relieve jail overcrowding brought about by the realignment of state prisoners.

"We've constructed a facility that is truly state of the art," Sheriff John McMahon said during Thursday's event, where a tour of the jail's expanded wing followed. "This is a great opportunity for us to keep moving forward in the corrections business."

A special coating on the walls in the jail's intake and medical areas reduces the spread of infectious diseases such as staph infections, which are common in jails, prisons, and other communal living facilities.
Not having to drive prisoners to Rancho Cucamonga from the High Desert allows deputies to get back to their patrol duties faster after booking them in Adelanto.

County Supervisor Robert Lovingood, whose district includes the bulk of the High Desert, said the new and improved jail will save deputies in the High Desert up to three hours by not having to take their detainees into Rancho Cucamonga.

"That's efficiency. That's more sheriff's (deputies) on the streets, and that's what we have to work to achieve," Lovingood said.

The jail's expanded wing will open in three phases, as the Sheriff's Department's budget allows for staffing of the facility. The first phase will see 222 beds filled within the next couple weeks, and the inmates who get those beds will be those whose cases are being heard in High Desert courtrooms.
Construction on the project began in 2011 and included a new 25,00-square-foot booking building, three housing units, remodeled kitchen and laundry facilities, a new parking lot and fire access roads. A number of unforeseen issues during construction including design flaws and changes to building codes caused the project budget to increase by $25.4 million.

The facility is equipped with a high definition video-surveillance system, and video monitors in each housing unit will allow inmates to visit with family and others. They will no longer be allowed face-to-face visitations because inmate movement is being restricted for security purposes, said the jail's commander Capt. Jon Marhoefer.

Video visitation has been in place for the past year at smaller jails in Barstow and Joshua Tree and is becoming a trend statewide, Marhoefer said.

"You will see more and more of this," Marhoefer said, adding that the video visiting system at the High Desert Detention Center is the first time the county has implemented the technology on such a large scale.
As the county's jails swelled in the 1990s and began reaching full capacity, the need for more became apparent. In 2008, the county applied for, and received, $100 million from the state for the expansion project, initially budgeted at $144 million.

The state funding was made available through the Offender Rehabilitation Services Act of 2007, which freed up $1.2 billion for jail construction projects across California.

Former Sheriff Gary Penrod, who attended Thursday's grand opening, saw the problem coming and began pushing for the much needed funding. He said his predecessor, Dick Williams, opened the West Valley Detention Center under his watch and Penrod pushed for the reopening of the Central Detention Center in San Bernardino, which the county was trying to sell to the state when Penrod took office.
But it wasn't enough, and Penrod said the money to expand the Adelanto jail, despite its heavy price tag, was money well spent.

"We're not like Arizona where you could use tents," Penrod said. "The state doesn't allow that."
He said he was glad to see the project finally completed.
"John Marhoefer was with me when we were fighting for that ($100 million) grant, so he's been a big part of the whole thing, too," Penrod said. "It's really good to see him still here and to have seen this whole project through."
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