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Gov Budget

The Kings County jail. (Sentinel file photo)

HANFORD — A state corrections board on Thursday approved a $20 million grant for Kings County to improve facilities at the local jail.

Sheriff Dave Robinson said this will fund plans for a jail addition focused on providing inmate programs and vocational training.

“We’re super excited about this,” Robinson said. “This is the maximum amount a small county like ours could receive. It will help pay for increased bed space and programs aimed at reducing recidivism.”

Tentative plans for the addition include space for classrooms, drug rehabilitation, a culinary service training kitchen and a 24-bed mental-health facility.

The Kings County Board of Supervisors agreed to match funds for the project up to 5 percent, which will be paid for largely by the Kings County Behavioral Health Department instead of the general fund.

The county already has plans to break ground on a jail expansion project this summer, which will add beds for another 250 inmates.

Robinson’s goal is to roll the two projects into one, with the expansion set to open in 2016 and  the new program space to be finished a year later.

“Before realignment, our plans for the jail were strictly to increase our bed space,” Robinson said. “We altered those plans to better fit with the direction the state is moving in.”

Public safety realignment is Gov. Jerry Brown’s plan to meet a court-ordered state prison population cap by sending low-level offenders to serve time in county jails. It has led to a paradigm shift away from incarceration as the sole means to rehabilitate inmates.

Kings is one of 15 California counties to get the green light from the Board of State Community Corrections, which met in Los Angeles on Thursday to make the announcement.

Protesters criticizing the construction and expansion of jail facilities also showed up at the event and cheered when four counties, including Los Angeles, were not recommended for funding.

“I think they are misinformed about our projects,” Robinson said. “None of them reached out to me to ask what our plans are to prevent recidivism. All they seem to care about is that it’s funding for jails.”

The reporter can be reached at 583-2425 and jjohnson@HanfordSentinel.com. Follow him on Twitter @JoeJ_HS.

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