byrd detention center
Byrd Detention Center - Photo courtesy of

The Board of Supervisors Tuesday approved expanding a subsidized ride program for inmates, with the goal of making it available to detainees who are released from any Riverside County detention facility without enough money to pay their own way home.

Riverside Inmate Destination Endeavor, or RIDE, was implemented in June 2014 as a pilot program conceived by then-Supervisor Jeff Stone. Since then, the board has approved funding for RIDE each fiscal year, but only at the Byrd Detention Center in French Valley, bordering Murrieta.

The Executive Office, in cooperation with the Riverside County Sheriff’s Department, asked the board Tuesday for authorization to make RIDE available at the Benoit Detention Center in Indio, the Blythe Jail, the Robert Presley Detention Center in Riverside and the Smith Correctional Facility in Banning.

The supervisors’ approval of the request did not include any additional funding above the $100,000 in outlays already established in the current fiscal year, specifically for the southwest jail. However, sheriff’s and Executive Office staff are expected to return to the board at the start of 2022-23 with appropriations requests, likely totaling about $500,000 to serve all of the facilities.

The revenue would be drawn from the county General Fund.

“The county jail facilities are all within walking distance to several housing communities and business centers,” according to a statement posted to the board’s agenda. “The RIDE program provides the sheriff the ability to pay for the cost of transporting released inmates out of the local community and to their home residences, resulting in prevention of loitering and criminal activity in the community.”

According to sheriff’s documents, RIDE provided 1,807 inmates released from the Byrd Detention Center in fiscal year 2019-20 with vouchers for taxis. The vouchers are honored by the county when submitted for processing.

The average cost per ride was $56.90.

In 2019-20, the Banning, Blythe, Indio and Riverside jails where RIDE is slated to become available collectively released just over 33,000 inmates, “of which some of the releases were unable to arrange for their own transportation,” according to an Executive Office statement.

Officials noted that the releases occurred when public transportation wasn’t available.

At the time RIDE was initiated, some residents and business owners in French Valley and Murrieta complained that inmates released at all hours of the night from the Byrd Detention Center were loitering near their properties, sometimes behaving aggressively and committing crimes, mostly vandalism and theft.

Inmates are generally set free with no bond requirement when the county’s detention facilities exceed capacity. A 28-year-old federal court order mandates that the sheriff have a bed available for each detainee, or release jailed offenders to make room for incoming ones. Sheriff’s correctional personnel make a determination as to whom to release on a case-by-case basis.

Releases escalated at the height of the coronavirus public health emergency, when state courts mandated that those deemed low-level offenders be turned out of county lockups to limit virus exposure risks.

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