Jailhouse Blues : Location of New County Lockup Has Neighboring Residents Keyed Up

Times Staff Writer

Trespassers never were much of a problem for Bill Douglass. The low, rusty barbed-wire fence beside the family’s orange orchard in Anaheim does little more than suggest that you stay out.

Then back in ’82, when every now and then someone would sneak in and steal something, his brother and sister-in-law, Theodore and Harriett Douglass, moved into a trailer on the property to keep an eye on things.

But now things have gotten so that Harriett is prepared to move out. In her mind, she said, is the vision of further trespassers--dressed in jail uniforms.

County supervisors Tuesday took steps to place a new county jail--housing up to 1,500 inmates--at the corner of Katella Avenue and Douglass Road in Anaheim. The site, which will get the jail pending completion of environmental studies, is directly south of the Douglasses’ orchard.


“I think the first place that someone who broke out would go is right through this orchard,” said Ron Douglass, gesturing behind him. He said he would worry about his uncle and aunt living in the trailer.

Jailers and prison wardens boast about high security standards, “but they all seem to have a breakout once in a while,” Ron Douglass said. County authorities now are trying to extradite from Massachusetts a convicted murderer who escaped from Orange County Jail last Jan. 26.

Bill Douglass, too, is disturbed, but in a different way. “I think it’s a hell of a note; put that down in writing. . . . The value of our land will go down terribly.”

Bill Douglass is 61, and in those years he has seen the family ranch shrink. Since his grandfather and father began working it in 1909, he has seen part of it condemned at $25,000 an acre for the Orange Freeway and another part condemned at $53,000 an acre for a county trash hauling station that fell into disuse and is now the planned jail site.


Bill Douglass still works the remaining seven acres of Valencia orange trees, but he and his brothers have expectations of cashing in the land.

“My dad passed away, and Mom’s in a rest home. We can’t do anything until Mom passes away. She’s 91 years old. After that, it (the orchard land) will go for industry,” Bill Douglass said. But a jail next door is certain to bring down the selling price, he said.

What about the possibility of an inmate coming over the fence?

Doesn’t Like Idea

Douglass grinned. “I’d shoot him,” he said.

“I may (pack a gun)” while working the orchard, he said. “I may, by God.”

A little way down the road named for the Douglass family, Gene Scarbrough was sitting in his backyard reading the morning newspaper. It’s the same backyard he’s had since 1955, and it contains some of the orange trees left over after leasing out his family’s orchard for a mobile home park.

He doesn’t like the idea of a jail being built so near, but he didn’t go to the Board of Supervisors hearing to protest. “It’s a waste of time,” he said. County supervisors and Sheriff Brad Gates, under pressure from a federal judge to end jail overcrowding, were going to pick the site just to avoid further fines, he said.


“I just think it (building the new jail) will never happen,” Scarbrough said. “I think they had to do something to take Brad Gates off the hook. They had to say something for the judge. With all the opposition that’s against it so far, I think it’s going to be a long, drawn-out process--if it ever happens--because of lawsuits and other things.”

It’s not the jail itself that bothers him, Scarbrough said. “It’s the element that’s around one all the time--you know, visitors in and out. . . . You never know what’s happening. You know, all the things you hear, what they’re sneaking into the jail.”

He said that his family has a home on its farmlands near Porterville in the San Joaquin Valley. We’ve been spending at least half our time here (in Anaheim), but if they do build that jail, well, I really don’t know.”