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Judge Extends Higher Cap on Inmates

A judge Monday allowed law enforcement officials to continue housing as many as 1,250 prisoners at County Jail downtown for two more months while a temporary men’s jail in Santee is completed.

Superior Court Judge James Malkus granted the extension after Chief Deputy County Counsel Anthony Albers told him that the 580-bed temporary men’s jail should be ready to accept prisoners by Nov. 1.

A 750-inmate cap was placed on the downtown jail as the result of a 1977 American Civil Liberties Union lawsuit filed on behalf of several prisoners who contended that crowding there amounted to cruel and unusual punishment.

Malkus raised the cap to 1,250 in May because of the yearlong closure of the Vista jail for remodeling and expansion. Although the expansions won’t allow more prisoners to be housed, they will help alleviate chronic crowding.

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The county’s six jails housed 3,753 inmates Monday morning, more than twice what they were designed to hold.

Malkus scheduled another hearing for Oct. 31 to review the downtown jail’s permitted population.

Meanwhile, the 192-bed expansion of the existing Las Colinas Women’s Detention Facility is expected to be completed by Dec. 1. The $3.25-million expansion will be finished about five weeks later than planned because of delays in completing off-site services such as sewer and water, Albers said.

Former ACLU attorney Alex Landon, who filed the 1977 lawsuit, said outside court that the 1,250-inmate cap extension was “sort of a necessary evil” because more than 400 prisoners are sleeping on the floor in outlying branch jails.

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“At least there’s the possibility of relief in that nearly 600 beds are well on their way in Santee, along with 192 for women,” he said.

“Hopefully, by June 1, the Vista jail will be open again, and that should go a long way toward addressing the overcrowded conditions in the county’s jails,” he said.


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