Juvenile Halls

INTRODUCTION

The California Penal Code Section 919b requires the Grand Jury to "inquire into the condition and management of the public prisons within the county". As a result of this mandate, the Grand Jury has investigated the Juvenile Halls in North County and in South County.

OBJECTIVE

The objective is to ascertain if the facilities meet their statutorily required functions in a satisfactory manner and, if not, to recommend improvements.

APPROACH

Grand Jury members made several visits to the two Juvenile Halls, both announced and unannounced. In addition, interviews were conducted with the Probation Department Director and staff, the Superior Court Legal Advisor, and the Juvenile Court Commissioner.

OBSERVATIONS

Staff members seemed to be competent and diligent in the performance of their duties and there appeared to be a genuine concern for the juveniles. The grand jury observed, however, inadequacies in terms of staffing, size, facility design, and efficient use of space.

Due to the design of the North County Juvenile Hall in which the two housing wings are separated, the night shift staff cannot adequately supervise both these areas as well as the intake reception area during bookings.

Medical care at both facilities appeared to be adequate although there is a concern should a medical emergency arise during the late night or early morning hours when no nurse or doctor is readily available. Hospitals are nearby and emergency services are available for rapid transport.

State dietary requirements appear to be met.

A scholastic program, in cooperation with the Santa Barbara County School District, is in effect and is providing an ongoing educational opportunity for the juveniles while they are in detention. The juveniles range in age from eight to eighteen. Classes are held regularly on a daily basis, five days a week.

Problems exist in the North County Juvenile Hall. Since its inception approximately twenty years ago, the capacity of the facility has been much too small. It is limited to twenty-two juveniles, whereas the South County Juvenile Hall's capacity is fifty-six. Approximately seventy-five percent of all County detainees are from the North County and the demographics of the County population indicate that such disparity will continue and grow, especially in view of the increase in violent and non-violent crimes by younger and younger juveniles (i.e., racial animosities, the proliferation of juvenile gangs and related crime).[1]

Due to the inadequacy in capacity and because population density is controlled by state law, detainees are transported daily from North County to South County (approximately 150 miles round trip) whenever the juvenile capacity in North County is exceeded. In addition, North County juveniles are transported from South County back to North County for court appearances. This is substantiated by Santa Barbara County Justice Facilities Short Term Master Plan by Jay Farbstein of December 23, 1993. Further, although parents are encouraged to visit and support their children, it is often difficult for North County parents to travel to South County.

The graphs above illustrate the dramatic increase in the last four fiscal years in trips and man hours stemming from the transportation of juveniles back and forth between the North County and the South County Juvenile Halls.

In addition to the cost of transportation between North County and South County and the diversion of staff members from their normal functions, there exists the danger of highway accidents, attempted escapes, and distraction and possible injury from juvenile violence to the single driver. There is also the potential for major liability.

It was also noted that juveniles were not uniformly restrained while being transported. Some juveniles were merely handcuffed, while others were three-way shackled - at the hands, waist, and feet.

The Board of Supervisors has been advised over the years of the inadequacy of the North County facility but have failed to resolve the problem.[2]

A positive aspect of the North County Juvenile Hall, and lacking in the South County Juvenile Hall, is that a Juvenile Court Commissioner holds court hearings in a courtroom at the detention facility. Although at one time the South County Juvenile Hall had its own courtroom similar to that in North County, the courtroom was closed and its functions were transferred to the downtown Santa Barbara court complex. This necessitates the constant transportation of detainees to and from the courthouse for their various hearings. Aside from transportation costs and the use of trained personnel to act as drivers, schooling and counseling for the detainees for that day is totally disrupted.

FINDINGS AND RECOMMENDATIONS

FINDING #1: The size of the North County Juvenile Hall is inadequate, which has led to a substantial waste of money and time in the transportation of juveniles between the two Juvenile Halls, disrupts schooling, makes it difficult for families to visit their children, and creates an increased risk of liability.

RECOMMENDATION #1: The Board of Supervisors take immediate action to provide for an increase in the capacity of the North County Juvenile Hall to a minimum of eighty beds, with commensurate staff.

FINDING #2: The Grand Jury agrees that the North County Juvenile Hall is understaffed. This is substantiated by the Santa Barbara County Justice Facilities Short Term Master Plan by Jay Farbstein of December 23, 1993.

RECOMMENDATION #2: The Board of Supervisors immediately authorize and fund additional juvenile institution officers to the North County Juvenile Hall to adequately staff the night shift.

FINDING #3: The lack of uniform restraint of the juveniles while being transported has created potential danger to staff and other juveniles.

RECOMMENDATION #3: All juveniles being transported should be three-way shackled.

FINDING #4: The lack of a courtroom in the South County Juvenile Hall has resulted in wasted travel time, undue expenditure of funds, and disruption of the positive rehabilitation programs.

RECOMMENDATION #4a: The Santa Barbara County Probation Department request of the Court that it provide a court facility and Juvenile Court Commissioner for the South County Juvenile Hall similar to that in the North County Juvenile Hall.

RECOMMENDATION 4b: As another alternative, the Grand Jury recommends that the Probation Department consider the use of closed circuit television between the downtown court complex and the Juvenile Hall for all judicial purposes other than trial.

REFERENCES

1 Interview with Probation Department, Nov. 8, 1994.

2 Board of Supervisors' Minutes beginning July 28, 1975.

AFFECTED AGENCIES (California Penal Code Section 933c requires that comments to Findings and Recommendations be made in writing within 60 days by all affected agencies except governing bodies, which are allowed 90 days.)

1. Santa Barbara County Board of Supervisors- response

2. Santa Barbara County Probation Department- response