Opponents of the new San Mateo County Jail point out that the proposed construction site may not be safe for residential use. The area has been cleared for commercial and industrial construction, but the question as to whether chemical levels in the soil could damage a person’s health if long term housing is constructed upon it.
Some are blasting county officials, pointing out that they have long been aware that the land is not safe to build houses on. If it is unsafe for families, they said, why is it being deemed safe for inmates? A representative for the San Mateo Sheriff’s Department said precautionary measures are being taken in order to insure detainees and jail staff are kept out of harm’s way. He has also pointed out that the intention is to not hold defendants at this facility for more than a few months. The department continues to underscore that concerns over environmental issues and potential exposure to hazardous materials are unwarranted.
At the time the $160 million jail is complete, more than 575 inmates will be able to be detained there. It will reportedly be six stories tall and will occupy 4.5 acres of land. Jail officials say they will also have the ability to expand capacity to hold up to 768 detainees if necessary. They have also pointed out that the State Department of Toxics and Substance Control has given them a green light to construct the proposed facility.
Opponents of the plan say more focus should be placed on rehabilitating inmates as opposed to building bigger spaces to house them. A new San Mateo County Jail, they say, is not the best long-term solution to the problem.