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County reacts with glee at new public safety facility
New center aims to reduce cycle of recidivism
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A mission to centralize and modernize the public safety facilities in Stanislaus County came to fruition Feb. 13 with the dedication of the REACT Center, a programs-based detention facility. - photo by SABRA STAFFORD/The Courier

Mitchell Gruber was pleased to take a tour of the new Re-Entry and Enhanced Alternatives to Custody Training Center in Ceres, just as he was equally pleased to leave it of his own free will.

Gruber, a convicted auto thief and admitted drug addict, is just the person Stanislaus County was seeking to serve when they embarked on the REACT project. Through the "Leaders in Community Alternatives" program Gruber has successfully completed a training course at Cal-Trade Welding and has tallied 285 days of sobriety.

"This is a great opportunity and I hope many others will give it a try and succeed," Gruber told an audience of county dignitaries, leaders, employees and guests at the REACT Center dedication on Tuesday, Feb. 13. "They just have to have the willingness and the commitment to make the change."

The REACT Center is a programs-based detention facility located at the Stanislaus County Public Safety Center in west Ceres. The center will provide transitional housing and program opportunities, like education and job-training to incarcerated adults. The facility has 288 inmate beds, which includes four transitional housing units at 48 beds each and three minimum housing units at 32 beds each. The Center aims to reduce the cycle of recidivism by closing the gaps between incarcerations and provide preparedness for release and overall rehabilitation.

"REACT will help people leave the bad choices behind them," said Stanislaus County Sheriff Adam Christianson.

This facility allows Stanislaus County to close the antiquated downtown jail, with the exception of some holding space for inmates attending court.

The center also is the final piece in a decades-long effort to modernize and centralize the custodial facilities in the county. The previously completed projects include the Sheriff's Detention Center and the Day Reporting Center. The Detention Center has 480 maximum security beds as well as housing for 57 medical and mental health offenders and 15 hospital beds. The Day Reporting Center is by the probation department for check-ins, substance abuse counseling, life skills and job training.

In 1986, a report on the custodial facilities in Stanislaus County found them to be antiquated and overcrowded and the Stanislaus County Board of Supervisors made a promise to the community to begin the process of centralizing and modernizing the facilities. The mission really gathered momentum with AB 900 Phase II funds, also known as the Local Jail Construction Financing Program established by the State Public Works Board.

The total cost for these projects was around $180 million, with the majority of the funding coming from the state and the remainder coming from the county. To build the REACT Center, the county applied for $40 million in State funding through the Adult Local Criminal Justice Facilities Construction Financing Program under Senate Bill 1022. Stanislaus County was originally denied funding but appealed that decision and was granted full funding of $40 million in March 2014. The County-required match of $4.445 million brought the total project budget to $44,445,000. This project was completed on time and significantly under budget, said Patricia Hill-Thomas, the county's chief operations officer and assistant executive officer.

"The REACT Center was worth fighting for," said Hill-Thomas, who spearheaded the appeal process to obtain the funding.

REACT was designed by the bridging architectural team of HOK and LDA Partners and constructed by the design-build team of Lionakis and Roebbelen contractors.

The Tuesday dedication ceremony of the facility on E. Hackett Road included an unveiling of a memorial plaque to the seven sheriff's department employees who have died in the line of duty.