Take Action to Stop Proposed Expansion of Contra Costa County Jail

The Contra Costa County Sheriff is proposing an expansion of the West County Detention Center in Richmond, adding 400 beds. A coalition of groups in the East Bay is organizing in opposition to this proposal. The county board of supervisors is scheduled to vote on the proposal on August 18, so action is urgently needed.

Sheriff Livingston proposes to expand the West County Detention Center, adding 400 new beds and space for mental health, drug treatment, and job training programs. The Martinez jail would be closed and prisoners transferred to the West County Center. Building the facility would require about $90 million, most of that coming from state funds, with about $10 million required in county funding. In addition, operating the facility would cost an estimated $10 million annually, an estimated $1.6 million increase in funding. You can read more in this article in the Contra Costa Times.

Concerns about this proposal: The sheriff would contract with a non-profit company to oversee professional services such as re-entry programs, but he has not provided specifics about this plan, and there is no guarantee that the funding would continue each year. Moving prisoners from Martinez to Richmond would likely require transportation of inmates to the courthouse in Martinez, requiring additional staff time and transportation expense. Adding beds creates the potential for the jail to house additional undocumented immigrants; the sheriff’s office already contracts a number of beds to Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), and the number of immigrants detained there has increased significantly this summer.  You can find more information in this resource.

Action steps:

  • Read the interfaith letter: We are writing to you as faith leaders who live and serve congregations throughout Contra Costa County to express our profound concern about your intention to construct a new unit at the West County Detention Facility with up to 418 beds ... read more
  • Add your signature to the letter here.
  • Attend the community forum Thursday, August 6, 7 p.m. at His Presence Worship Center, 1185 Second Street Brentwood.
  • Show up to support our press conference/rally at the sheriff's office in Martinez: Tuesday, August 11, 11 a.m. at 651 Pine Street, Martinez. Invite your friends and congregations!
  • Show up to voice opposition at the Board of Supervisors vote on the issue: Tuesday, August 18, 9 a.m. at 651 Pine Street, Room 107, Martinez. Invite your friends and congregations!

I became aware of this issue through my participation in monthly immigrations vigils at the West County Detention Center, organized by the Interfaith Coalition for Immigration RightsCLUE California (Clergy and Laity United for Economic Justice). On the first Saturday of each month from 11 a.m. until 12 noon, people gather outside the detention center to pray, sing, and hear testimony from immigrants and others. Several clergy from the East Bay participate regularly, as do members of All Souls, Berkeley. We’ll be there again this Saturday, August 1, 11 a.m, to 12 noon, West County Detention Center, 5555 Giant Highway, Richmond.