Newport, Costa Mesa could join their jailhouses

Cost-cutting Newport Beach and Costa Mesa might one day share their city jails, officials said.

Newport Councilwoman Leslie Daigle this week proposed during a council meeting that her city look into contracting jail services, as well as hiring private guards to supplement the jail's existing staff.

"Costa Mesa is a natural partner," Daigle said.

Interim Costa Mesa Police Chief Steve Staveley and Newport Police Chief Jay R. Johnson confirmed that the two cities were talking about sharing or modifying their lockups.

The cities are also looking at other possible law enforcement efficiencies, such as sharing 911 dispatch and police fleet maintenance. There is no public talk of combining police departments.

Newport Beach is considering a proposal from Costa Mesa to allow police to book arrestees into the Newport jail, City Manager Dave Kiff said.

Newport would need to hire guards from a private security firm to bolster the jail's staff because the present staffing level cannot accommodate an influx of inmates from Costa Mesa, Newport officials said.

"The advantage to this is a measured approached to switching from public to private and gives us time to ensure we are happy with the private contractors' service, as well as train them with our own custody officers," Johnson said in an e-mail. "If we become comfortable with the service, one option would be to replace the remainder of our own custody officers with the private contractor through attrition."

An option on the table is to share jailhouse services in order to increase the number of beds available to inmates, which could qualify for the Orange County Sheriff's Department to take over jail operations at a lower cost to both cities, Staveley said.

The Costa Mesa Jail has 32 beds to Newport's 23.

Staveley emphasized that talks between Costa Mesa and Newport Beach are only preliminary and that a variety of scenarios are on the table.

In addition, the sheriff's department would consider taking over jail operations, provided that as many as 100 beds are available, Staveley said.

Another option that has been discussed is arrestees by gender, with women going to one jail and the men the other.

The city of Newport Beach is also considering moving its police headquarters from Santa Barbara Drive near Fashion Island to a location closer to Costa Mesa, making a partnership more convenient, Kiff said.

About 50 to 100 homeless people per month are processed at Costa Mesa's jail, said CMPD Sgt. Ron Chamberlin, who oversees the jail operations.

Many of the homeless have little means of getting back to Costa Mesa after they are released on their own recognizance.

Editor's note: This corrects the last sentence.

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