Contra Costa County has given the green light to spending funds intended for coronavirus relief to hire 24 new sheriffs deputies.
The issue has raised a lot of eyebrows but after hours of public comment, the Board of Supervisors approved the controversial new hires who will work at the Contra Costa County jail in Martinez.
The county says the extra staff is badly needed but many say the money should be spent for other services that are also critical especially during the pandemic.
“I’m more than upset, more than frustrated,” said Gigi Crowder, head of the county’s National Alliance of Mental Illness.
She said using coronavirus relief funds to hire deputies doesn’t make sense.
“Wouldn’t it make more sense to use funds now to ensure individuals are not incarcerated?” she Crowder said.
Supervisors approved spending nearly $2 million in CARES Act money to add deputies to the jail.
The CARES Acts is also known as the Coronavirus Air, Relief and Economic Security Act and it was created to address the economic fallout of the pandemic.
Supervisor Karen Mitchoff says the extra staff is needed to better handle inmates with mental health issues. While the County is also hiring health services staff, she says deputies are needed to transport inmates to doctor’s appointments, allow for more out of cell time, and increase visitations .
“Once they have committed a crime they still need to receive mental health services and this will be a stronger program,” said Mitchoff.