Community Coalition Describes Sacramento Board of Supervisors Decision to Expand Main Jail ‘Corruption’ and ‘Conflict of Interest’ – Urges Cancellation of Jail Contract

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By Crescenzo Vellucci

The Vanguard Sacramento Bureau Chief

SACRAMENTO, CA – The Sacramento County Board of Supervisors Tuesday was asked by a coalition of community groups here to “vote to cancel the county’s contract with Nacht & Lewis – an architectural design firm chosen to design the county’s expansion of the Main Jail – for work related to the ‘Intake and Health Services Facility.’”

The groups said they are “concerned about corruption in Sacramento County’s decision-making process,” and are upset that the Board has seemingly reversed a previous decision last year to cancel the jail expansion project.

In a letter Tuesday to the board, Nacht & Lewis and other county officials, the coalition said, “Thousands of community members have expressed concern about Nacht & Lewis’ conflict of interest as advisors on a project that they continue to profit from.”

The opponents of the jail expansion noted that even the Supervising Deputy County Counsel, Rick Heyer, noted the “conflict of interest.”

Heyer, they said, advised the Board, “Nacht & Lewis…will not be eligible to participate in any future construction, design, or build—because of their work here, will be excluded from that” at a hearing last September.

“The reversal of the Board’s original decision to cancel this jail expansion project was based primarily on the opinions of Nacht & Lewis, who were tasked with determining the feasibility of meeting lawsuit requirements without a building expansion while they were set up to profit from jail expansion plans continuing,” said Mack Wilson, Decarcerate Sacramento

Advocates argue, “Nacht & Lewis’ report did not fully explore how the jail could be retrofitted if the population was reduced significantly. Mays Plaintiffs’ attorneys that sued the county have stated many times that: ‘At the core of this crisis is the oversized jail population, which the County has failed to manage in a humane or lawful manner.’”

“Their report was based on biased assumptions that ignore significant policy shifts that will divert people with high acuity healthcare needs from being incarcerated in Sacramento County jails,” said Liz Blum, Decarcerate Sacramento. “It also falsely shifts responsibility away from jail staff, understaffing, and overpopulation—and towards the structure of the building.”

“Nacht & Lewis has received over $2 million dollars of their original $7.2 million contract that was approved in April 2020. “These are funds that could have been prioritized for serving our unhoused community and preventing people from ending up in jail,” said Dr. Corrine McIntosh Sako, PsyD, LMFT, a member of the coalition.

More than 20 organizations signed a letter to the Board, asking it to “uphold integrity and accountability in county decision-making by canceling the Nacht & Lewis contract for the ‘Intake and Health Services Facility’ project and stopping the use of any existing recommendations or designs from N&L for this project to avoid continued conflicts of interest.”

The coalition charged in its letter, “Unfortunately, county staff are promising one thing while doing another. The most recent staff report to the Board of Supervisors on April 19, 2023, showed that the county resumed meetings with a ‘criteria architect’ on March 28, 2023.

“And the new RFQ for jail architectural projects does not include the ‘Intake and Health Services Facility.’ It is clear that Nacht & Lewis is continuing to work on this project—contrary to what county staff have told the public and the Board.”

The coalition includes ACLU Foundation of Northern California, Public Health Advocates, Bend the Arc, California Pan-Ethnic Health Network, Justice2Jobs Coalition, Youth Forward, Social Justice PolitiCorps, Decarcerate Sacramento, Essie Justice Group, San Francisco Pretrial Diversion Project,
A New PATH (Parents for Addiction Treatment & Healing), End Solitary Santa Cruz County, Freedom 4 Youth, La Defensa, Sister Warriors Freedom Coalition, NorCal Resist, Anti Police-Terror Project Sacramento, Showing Up for Racial Justice (SURJ) Sacramento, Fight Toxic Prisons,
Sacramento Area Congregations Together, Communities Not Prisons, JusticeLA Coalition, Dignity & Power Now and Care First California Coalition.

About The Author

Disclaimer: the views expressed by guest writers are strictly those of the author and may not reflect the views of the Vanguard, its editor, or its editorial board.

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