SANTA BARBARA COUNTY, Calif. -

Clergy and Laity United for Economic Justice, also known by the acronym CLUE, set out to determine how much Santa Barbara County spends to keep so-called non-violent, mentally ill offenders in the already over-crowded Santa Barbara County Jail..

"Let's look at what we can do in the community", says CLUE volunteer Maureen Earls, "first of all many of those who have minor infractions or manifestations of their mental illness really need to be treated in facilities in the community, not in jail."

The CLUE study determined it costs about $50,000 a year to keep a mentally ill inmate locked up in the county jail along with all the other medical services the person requires.

The CLUE report suggests the County of Santa Barbara and the Santa Barbara County Sheriff's Department, which runs the county jail, could save millions of dollars by moving non-violent, county jail inmates to alternative county-owned facilities.

"They would be different kinds of facilities based on the needs of the people that are now being housed and serviced in jail", Earls tells Central Coast News, "some of them need to be in scattered housing.

The CLUE report agrees with the plan to build a new county jail in northern Santa Barbara County.

But the report suggests diverting county money planned to pay for expanded mental health treatment facilities at the new North County Jail to alternative locations around the county that could also receive private investment funds.

The CLUE report and study is expected to be presented to the Santa Barbara County Board of Supervisors in the coming weeks.