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Paso Robles jail closes for the last time

Paso Robles Police Lt. Ed Bryant checks an empty cell at Paso Robles City Jail. The Sheriff's Department won't pay the price to house prisoners there anymore.
Paso Robles Police Lt. Ed Bryant checks an empty cell at Paso Robles City Jail. The Sheriff's Department won't pay the price to house prisoners there anymore. Telegram-Tribune

Jails don’t take vacations, but sometimes they go out of business.

San Luis Obispo County has, at times in history, had jails located from San Miguel to Arroyo Grande. In a county the size of Rhode Island and Delaware combined, there is a lot of room to roam.

Highways have improved and jail regulations are stricter; now the sheriff runs the county’s only jail.

Paso Robles, a city celebrating 125 years this year, was the last to let go of its town lockup.

On May 13, 1982, Telegram-Tribune reporter Phil Dirkx wrote about the changing of the guard:

Paso hoosegow closes its doors

They have taken in the welcome mat at the Paso Robles City Jail. It’s been closed until further notice because of lack of business.

The jail was closed April 1 on a trial basis for at least a month, said Paso Robles Chief of Police Vern Mathison.

The city expected its jail business to drop off drastically because the county sheriff’s department said it would no longer pay the $27.19 per day the city was charging for each prisoner booked by an outside agency.

The sheriff’s department has been picking up the tab for guests brought to the jail by California Highway Patrol officers in the North County because state law obligates sheriffs to provide places to hold prisoners.

And the CHP has been responsible for a large portion of the jail’s clientele in recent years. The sheriff’s department reviewed its budget and decided it could no longer afford the rates at the Paso Robles jail, said sheriff’s Capt. Antony Wood.

“The price was way out of line for our budget,” Wood said.

His department felt it would be cheaper to have the prisoners carried to County Jail at Camp San Luis Obispo.

Paso Robles then decided it might not have enough prisoners of its own to justify keeping the jail open.

Paso Robles and the CHP have always taken women prisoners and juveniles to San Luis Obispo.

Officer Ardean Werner of the Highway Patrol office at Templeton said the new arrangement costs his office about one man-hour per day more than the former system.

Mathison said the city’s charge was based on a total of all the costs of operating the jail. He does not, however, expect closing the jail will save money for his department. But it should give his officers more time in the field because they will no longer have to tend prisoners.

The five-cell Paso Robles jail was the only other real jail in the county, other than the County Jail, said Wood. Some cities have holding cells, however, he said.

The Paso Robles jail will now also be used as temporary holding cells.

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