By Tim Pompey
It might have been a rainy morning at the Todd Road Jail in Santa Paula, but spirits among the gathered crowd were high as the County initiated a ground-breaking ceremony for what Ventura County Sheriff Bill Ayub termed a “health and programming unit” (HPU) to be opened May 2021.
The Todd Road Jail, operated by the Ventura County Sheriff’s Office, currently houses about 800 inmates on 157 acres of agricultural land along Todd Road and Highway 126. It primarily houses convicted male defendants who have been ordered to serve county jail sentences.
In addition to a jail, it has served as a booking station, a place to post bail, to appear for their arraignment, or to appear for trial.
Todd Road also houses female inmates, as well as violent/assaultive offenders, and inmates requiring psychiatric and/or medical services.
The latter group is the focus of the new jail expansion.
“The idea of the HPU was first discussed and recognized more than ten years ago,” said Ventura County Sheriff Bill Ayub. “Since that time, changes in incarceration criteria in the state of California’s justice system have impacted our county’s jail system population.”
The impact has extended inmates length of stays, created an aging inmate population, and increased the need for medical and mental health services. The new jail unit will play a significant role in improving services to these specific jail populations.
“The addition of 64 beds to our county’s jail system constitutes a modest 4 percent increase in total inmate housing capacity,” said Ayub. “However, the type of care we will be able to provide in this facility equates to a massive increase in our capability to care for the pervasive problem of acute medical and mental illness amongst our inmate population.”
The Sheriff outlined the urgent needs that they deal with as part of their daily oversight.
“We house people who many times are at the end of their rope, socially, physically and often times mentally,” he explained. “Addressing the issues of mental illness and medical instability in a new and comprehensive way will go a long way toward improving outcomes for those who need it most, and that is exactly what the Health and Programming Unit will allow us to do.”
County CEO Mike Powers commended the Ventura County Sheriff’s Office for making the decisions necessary to initiate this project. He noted how most county sheriffs took this type of funding and simply decided to build bigger jails. However, In Ventura County, a different choice was made.
“This Sheriff’s Office is one of the very few in the state who decided that that’s not what we need the most,” Powers stated. “What we need most is a facility that houses an aging population and people with mental illness. We’re not just going to build a bigger jail. We’re going to build a facility that focuses on medical and mental health needs, and we’re going to design it right.”
Powers also insisted that the new facility reflects the “quality of the safety officers who work in these facilities, because they are top notch.”
The project was financed primarily by a state grant in 2016, estimated at about $54 million dollars. The county pitched in the additional $6 million to complete the project.
The new facility will be 64,000 square feet with six distinct housing units each containing ten beds, and four additional beds in the medical clinic. The plan includes day rooms, recreation yards, counseling rooms, multipurpose rooms, classrooms, and visual access to planted landscaping and natural light.
Photo Credits: Tim Pompey
Tim Pompey, a freelance writer who has done lots of local affairs and entertainment/cultural writing, lives in Oxnard. Tim is also a fiction writer (Facebook Page). You can learn about his books on Amazon.com: amazon.com/author/booksbytimpompey.
Mr. Pompey’s Newest Book: Mrs. Parsley and the Tale of Mossel’s Farm
Mrs. Parsley loves to tell stories to children. In her little house in Okafor, Florida, she writes them herself. Then, in a twist from her own past, Mrs. Parsley and her young friend Terence go on an adventure to rescue children held captive at the Mossel’s farm deep in the Big Cypress Swamp. Down the Blue Pole Road, across the Midnight Ferry, past the Milky White Magnolia Trail, and through the Crossing of the Gnome, magic, danger, and a wee bit of fun await them as they carry out their mission. Who will travel with Mrs. Parsley as she reclaims her past and discovers a new future—for Terence, for the captured children, for herself?
Mrs. Parsley and the Tale of Mossel’s Farm On Amazon