OROVILLE (CBS SF) – Among the many concerns facing Butte County Sheriff Kory Honea when the order was given to evacuate areas near the Oroville Dam spillway was what to do with more than 500 inmates in the county jail.

The facility in the zone that would be impacted if the spillway gave up and a 30-foot wall of water roared down the Feather River.

So he began making calls, asking for favors from other sheriff’s in the state.


His plea was answered by Alameda County Greg Ahern and on Sunday night a caravan of heavily guarded vehicles began transferring nearly 600 inmates to the Bay Area.

“It was necessary for us to evacuate those inmates,” Honea said at a noon news conference. “At the time I did not disclose the location where those inmates were going to be housed because it would have posed a security risk while they were in transit.”

“They have now arrived safely and we are very fortunate to have the assistance of the Alameda County Sheriff. “In excess of 500 of them were transported down to Alameda County jail…They will remain in that location until such a time when we determine it safe to return them to the Butte County jail.”

Alameda County sheriff’s spokesman Sgt. Ray Kelly said there’s “plenty of room” for the Butte County inmates at Santa Rita because the jail housed about 5,000 inmates a day in the early 2000s but currently houses only about 2,500 inmates a day.

Kelly said his department may incur some overtime costs for housing and helping transport the Butte County inmates but he said the inmates “won’t tax the system.”

He said the flooding threat in Butte County seems to be easing so he thinks the inmates will be transferred back to the jail there “in a matter of several days.”

“It will be a very short visit here but we’re glad to help,” Kelly said.


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