Santa Barbara County
RE: GRAND JURY FINDINGS AND RECOMMENDATIONS SHERIFF DETENTION FACILITIES
Dear Judge Melville:
Attached is my response to the 1994-95 Grand Jury Interim Final Report regarding Sheriffs Detention Facilities.
First of all, let me apologize for the tardiness of this report. It was actually due on August 27, 1995, and, although we received appropriate notice from County Administrator Kent Taylor's office on July 13, 1995, it was not passed on to Custody Operations Chief Deputy John Da Foe so that he could prepare our response. He advised me that he spoke you this morning and you graciously extended our due date to September 5, 1995. I thank you for your understanding.
If Your Honor has any questions regarding any of these responses, please feel free to contact me.
RESPONSE TO 1994-1995
GRAND JURY INTERIM FINAL REPORT
FINDINGS AND RECOMMENDATIONS
FINDING #I: Over the past twenty years, the Board of Supervisors has made little or no progress in meeting the need for a proper North County jail facility.
Response to Finding- #I: This is not , entirely accurate. An updated North County 'ail needs assessment entitled "North Santa Barbara County Correctional Master Plan" was completed on June 15, '1992. It is a comprehensive document addressing jail needs for the North County well into the next century. A copy of this Plan is available upon request.
A number of potential jail sites have been identified, public hearings were held, and currently County staff has been authorized by the Board of Supervisors to negotiate with the property owner of one of the sites. While this whole process has been extremely slow and there is no doubt there have been unnecessary delays, I do not believe this "fault" should be placed at the feet of the Board of Supervisors. It has been our experience that the Board has been responsive and supportive within their fiscal capabilities with regard to planning for the North County jail. In fact, the current Board members, as well as several past Board members have been openly supportive of our efforts.
RECOMMENDATION #1a: The Board of Supervisors immediately seek financing for the construction and operation of a North County jail by whatever means available.
Response to Recommendation #1a: The response to this recommendation must come from the Office Of The County Administrator representing the Board of Supervisors.
However, the problem is, the projected construction costs, which are estimated to be in the 75 to 80 million dollar area, as well is the 15 million dollar or so annual operating costs seem almost overwhelming. Within the past month or so Chief Da Foe and Commander Horsley met with a firm specializing in the funding of public projects including jails. There are no easy answers. Given the County's fiscal condition, unless State or Federal money should suddenly and unexpectedly become available, it will be necessary for the local taxpayers to pass a bond measure for construction costs as well as ongoing funding for the annual operating costs. It is my expectation that sometime in the not too distant future the Board of Supervisors and other key players and I will meet to develop a strategy on how we will approach this issue. We have closely monitored other local elections for similar efforts and there are some definite timing requirements in order to stand a chance of being successful.
RECOMMENDATION #1b: Within 90 days, the Board of Supervisors should establish and adopt a specific timetable for the completion of a North County jail.
Response to Recommendation #lb: The response to this recommendation must come from the Office Of The County Administrator representing the Board of Supervisors.
However, again, the ability to develop a 90-day timetable must be predicated upon funding availability.
RECOMMENDATION #lc: Subsequent Grand Juries should follow up on the jail construction timetable established by the Board of Supervisors to ensure that it is completed.
Response to Recommendation #lc: The outgoing Grand Jury each year must ensure that this recommendation is passed on to its successor Grand Jury.
FINDING #2: The Santa Barbara County Courthouse facilities are inadequate for the safe movement of prisoners.
RECOMMENDATION #2a: The Sheriff's Department should request the Superior Courts to install closed circuit television between the Superior Court and the County Jail for all prisoner proceedings other than actual trials.
Response to Recommendation #2a: This is not as simple as it may seem. There has been in existence for the past 15 years a closed circuit television system connecting the Probation Department and the Public Defender's Office with the Main Jail in the South County. There are plans to create a similar unit connecting the North County. Over the years, there have been numerous discussions regarding the handling of some of the court proceedings in this manner. To date, a combination of cost, technology limitations, and concern about the rights of the defendant have not made it feasible. Conceptually most of the affected department heads, judges, and others impacted do not appear to oppose this idea if the areas of concern can be resolved. We will again address this idea with the Courts.
RECOMMENDATION #2b: The Sheriff's Department should clear the corridors of all people whenever prisoners are being moved in the Courthouse.
Response to Recommendation 2b: The idea that the Sheriffs Department should clear the corridors of all people whenever prisoners are being moved in the main Courthouse is simply not practical. This building is not only a functioning courthouse, but is an office building occupied by several non criminal courts type of services. Due to its unique beauty, it Is also a major tourist attraction and, in fact, is a museum of sorts. It has numerous openings, doorways, balconies, and stairways making it impossible to secure with the number of available staff. It would also create tremendous inconvenience for all the workers and other visitors attempting to do business in the Courthouse. When special security is required, Sheriff staff will do what can be done to ensure public safety. As you are aware, at your request we have taken a serious look at court security since you became Presiding Judge and have made a number of improvements in this area.
FINDING #3a: The current configuration of the Santa Maria Branch Jail office poses an unacceptable security risk to staff.
FINDING #3b: The reception area at the Santa Maria Branch Jail needs to be modified to provide a separate contact area for the Sheriff's sub-station.
FINDING #3c: There is not adequate room at the Santa Maria Branch Jail for arresting officers to complete their booking sheets.
RECOMMENDATIONS #3: The Board of Supervisors should immediately provide funding to make the above improvements.
Response to Recommendation #3: The Santa Maria Branch Jail was built as part of the Santa Maria Sheriff's Substation opening in 1971. This is a Type I facility, as defined by Title 15 of the California Code of Government Regulations. This essentially means that it is a jail facility designed to hold people for their first 96 hours in custody after which they are to be transported to a Type 11 (long-term) jail facility such as the Main Jail located in Goleta.
The substation is generally expected to be open during normal business hours; however, in an attempt to accommodate the public, the department takes advantage of the fact that jailers are on duty ,around the clock and actually allows public access from dawn to dusk. The station, including the 'jail office area underwent a remodel approximately three years ago, which included installing a sliding window which would isolate the jail office. The public door can he electronically operated to allow selected access. It is our opinion that the jail office area is adequate to safely accomplish all necessary tasks. Approximately seventy-five percent (75%) of all "counter traffic" is jail related, so it seems appropriate that the public's first contact is with jail staff.
With specific regard to the complaint that there is inadequate room for the arresting officers to complete their booking sheets, it is expected that the officer should complete this prior to seeking entrance to the jail unless the inmate is combative or an extreme security risk.
I will also point out to the Court that, prior to the remodel of three years ago, there was considerable discussion regarding major remodel work if this facility was going to be needed for the long-term. A serious problem is that any major remodel to this facility would require upgrading to current standards under Title 24 of the California Code of Government Regulations. Based on estimated costs which ranged from a couple of hundred thousand dollars at minimum to well over a million dollars top end, it seemed more sensible to use any available funding for the new North County jail.