Ridgecrest jail temporarily avoids closure

Posted at 5:15 PM, Feb 25, 2016
and last updated 2016-02-26 03:19:20-05

The Kern County Sheriffs Office was supposed to lose two facilities last Saturday due to budget cuts, but the Ridgecrest jail and the Buttonwillow substation both remain open for the time being.

For the Ridgecrest Police Department, the jail is practically a necessity.

If the jail were to close in Ridgecrest, inmates would have to be transported to Mojave to be booked. With roughly only 14 beds, Mojave fills up quickly, meaning that Ridgecrest officers would have to take inmates all the way to Bakersfield.

"A few hours to Mojave and back after you book and a minimum of four to five hours to Bakersfield," said Captain Jed McLaughlin of Ridgecrest Police Department.

"We book over twelve hundred people a year, nine hundred at this facility and another two hundred and something at CRF in Bakersfield."

The Ridgecrest Police Department has a total of 32 police officers, usually with three or four patrolling the street at one time. If the jail closed, Ridgecrest would lose an on-duty officer for a significant amount of time for booking.

McLaughlin said that in addition to Kern County Sheriffs and Ridgecrest police, the jail is also used by CHP and police at China Lake.

The facility was supposed to close on February 20, but the city held a special meeting attended by Sheriff Donny Youngblood. Hundreds of Ridgecrest citizens showed up to tell Youngblood how they felt about the closure, and he listened.

"He listened to us," said Ridgecrest Mayor Peggy Breeden. "He didn’t have to. But he did, and that means a lot."

Though funds were found to keep the jail open for the remainder of the fiscal year, the jail is now set to close on July 1.

Mayor Breeden says that residents have even offered to help come up with funds for the jail themselves, and she remains confident that it will remain open past the new closure date.

"We’ve even had the public come up and say 'we’d be willing to form an assessment district, we’d be willing to make donations', because having the jail here is kind of important to us.

"So whether we work together with public, private, or the city, it’s going to happen."