Sue Frost

Sue Frost: Sacramento County Jail dilemma – choices are limited

Sue Frost

My position on criminal justice has always been clear: We must protect citizens from criminal predators, support the men and women who keep us safe, hold individuals accountable, and reduce the number of victims in the future. Every decision I make reflects these principles.

The county jails play an important role in helping our sheriff deputies and law enforcement keep our neighborhoods and businesses safe. However, recent lawsuits and state mandates have pressed the county to upgrade our jails. If we don’t, we face the threat of federal receivership where they make the decisions, and we assume the cost.

The lawsuit (Mays Consent Decree) requires enhancements accessibility, services and safety in our jails. The county is required to bring our jails into compliance with ADA and HIPAA, provide proper out-of-cell time, improve the conditions in our jails with medical and mental health facilities that are appropriate for inmates in need and improve our intake facilities.

Both the Sacramento County main jail and the Rio Cosumnes Correctional Center (RCCC) were built before regulations like the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) of 1990 and the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) of 1996. Without action by the board, we risk federal oversight and unchecked spending on taxpayer money.

On Aug. 8, the county board reviewed and approved our response to the Grand Jury report from June 2, 2023, title “What’s Taking So Long?” It is important to note the Grand Jury’s mandate is to ensure transparency and accountability. It initiates investigations in response to resident or elected official’s concerns. The investigations result in a public report, which requires a public response directed to the Superior Court’s Presiding Judge as laid out in Penal Code Sections 933 and 933.05.

Our board has also received criticism from citizens who seek to decrease jail populations and who express concern that capital improvements will equal expansion of the jail’s inmate capacity.

The Grand Jury report correctly identified AB109 as a driving force behind which inmates are in our jails, and it is surprising to note the daily average inmate count is currently lower than it was in 2011 when AB109, the California Public Safety Realignment Act of 2011, was imposed by the legislature.

AB109 enacted early releases for some criminals and shifted others to be housed in our county jails. The jails that normally housed inmates for one to two years are now housing some inmates for up to 13 years. This change increases the costs for taxpayers.

Additionally, Props. 47 and 57 created a new challenge: Either release criminals or create alternatives to monitor them outside of a jail setting. Our county chose the latter. The alternative strategies, created with the input and backing of both the Sheriff’s Department and District Attorney’s Office, are designed to keep our community safe and ensure criminals are still held accountable.

The legislature has redefined the way we look at crime. What used to be a felony is now a misdemeanor. We are now subjected to laws that allow a person to steal up to $1,000 and it is a simple misdemeanor. At the same time, legislation like SB 553 would make it illegal for a retail business owner to ask employees to protect their store from criminals who smash and grab. This bill sends an inviting message to criminals and makes our businesses more vulnerable.

I support improving conditions in our jails for all: inmates, officers and staff. Some have shared with me how jail intervention changed their lives, helping them overcome drug addiction. I know victims who are comforted, knowing their attacker is serving time behind bars. Jails are necessary for our society, and we are making progress toward the Mays Consent Decree compliance. Plans are moving forward for a facility focusing on medical, mental health and intake services. The board will receive the final design concepts and budget soon.

Thank you for reading – and as always, if you want to contact me, call me at 916-874-5491, or e-mail me at

Sacramento County Supervisor Sue Frost represents the 4th District, which includes the communities of Citrus Heights, Folsom, Orangevale, Antelope, North Highlands, Rio Linda, Elverta and Rancho Murieta.

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