August 25, 1998

 

 

Honorable Frank J. Ochoa, Presiding Judge

Santa Barbara County Superior Court

1100 Anacapa Street

Santa Barbara, California 93121-1107

 

 

Board of Supervisors’ Response to the 1997-98 Grand Jury Interim Final Report on Detention Facilities

 

 

Dear Judge Ochoa:

 

At its regular meeting of August 25, 1998, the Board of Supervisors adopted the Fire and Health Care Services Departments’ responses, and the Sheriff’s and Probation Departments’ responses, with revisions noted below, as the Board’s responses to the relevant findings and recommendations in the 1997-98 Grand Jury’s interim final report on Detention Facilities. In addition, the Board adopted responses to the "Chronic Main Jail Overcrowding" section of the Grand Jury report as the sole affected agency named in that section.

 

The Sheriff’s Department’s amended responses are as follows:

 

County Jails

 

Finding 2:

 

Male prisoners are regularly discharged at midnight or later when the jail staff has plenty of time to finish paper work. This inconvenient discharge time puts them on dark streets with no available transportation. Female prisoners are only released in daylight hours.

 

 

Recommendation 2:

 

Discharges should be scheduled for times when freed inmates can get transportation, not when the time and circumstances are conducive to more crimes.

 

Response: We disagree with this recommendation. Due to chronic Main Jail overcrowding of the male inmate population, relief of such overcrowding must be a priority over time of release. Because of this overcrowding, arrival of arrestees in the evening hours makes it necessary to release male prisoners at night. If, in the future, circumstances allow for any other alternative, such action will be implemented.

 

Transportation

 

Finding 1:

 

Transportation of a few inmates to far-off courts has forced the whole jail into irregular hours of eating which will require extra adjustments when inmates return to the life outside.

 

Recommendation 1:

 

Put inmates who need to go back to Santa Maria court in a special area and feed them separately either in Santa Barbara or after they arrive in Santa Maria.

 

Response: While we agree in concept with the recommendation, it is not practical to implement due to overcrowding in the Main Jail. There is no place to put approximately 50 inmates of all different classifications in a separate area of feeding. Due to time constraints and lack of refrigeration for the required serving of milk, feeding breakfast to the Santa Maria court inmates in the Santa Maria court compound is not a viable option. The construction of a North County Jail will reduce the lengthy bus trips to court. As a result, we will be able to implement a more reasonable feeding and wake-up schedule for inmates at both facilities.

 

In addition, the following is the Board of Supervisors response to findings and recommendations where the Board of Supervisors itself was named as the sole responding agency.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Juvenile Detention Facilities

 

Recommendation 3:

 

The issue of staff morale and attrition need to be addressed. The cost to the county to hire and train Juvenile Institutions Officers, only to have them transfer to other safety facilities, often outside the county, is a drain on both county resources and employee morale.

 

Response: The recommendation is being implemented. Probation Department managers are very concerned about the morale of staff. Work in juvenile institution facilities, particularly the Juvenile Halls, is very difficult and requires a highly trained and skilled work force. The detainees in our facilities are sometimes violent and increasingly aggressive, unstable, and seriously emotionally disabled. Department managers have and will continue to make a concerted effort to listen and respond to the concerns of line staff, and develop training programs and provide the equipment necessary to safely and effectively perform their duties. A Weaponless Defensive Tactics class and Dealing with Critical Incidents curriculum have recently been instituted in response to staff concerns and to build a sense of confidence in handling difficult minors. Moreover, we have recently added 12 Juvenile Institutions Officer IV positions, three for each facility, to bolster the training and supervision of Probation staff. The level of compensation for the JIO’s will be determined as part of the collective bargaining process with the Probation Peace Officer’s Association.

 

Chronic Main Jail Overcrowding

 

Finding 1:

 

Overcrowding of the main jail in Santa Barbara and lack of a major jail in the north county are the basic reasons for many of the problems associated with the Sheriff’s custodial operations.

 

Response: The Board agrees with the finding.

 

Finding 2:

 

Each additional detainee requires more time of an already overburdened staff. This overcrowding also places additional pressure on the detainees, causing morale problems.

 

Response: The Board disagrees partially with the finding. We agree that each additional detainee requires more staff time and that overcrowding places additional

 

pressure on detainees resulting in negative morale and other problems. However, last spring, at the Sheriff’s request, the Board allocated 11 additional custody positions and approved funding for additional jail security which together were to provide appropriate measures regarding any "overburdening" of jail staff.

 

Recommendation 1:

 

The County Board of Supervisors should use all available resources to build new jail facilities in Northern Santa Barbara County. (Findings 1, 2)

 

Response: A North County jail facility is a priority of the Board and is included in the adopted Capital Improvement Plan. However, due to it’s high cost, requiring "all available resources" to be used to build such a facility would result in no funding being available for any other worthwhile priority projects for many years to come. Therefore, although a financing plan for a North County jail facility (which is currently being studied) would be appropriate, the recommendation will not be implemented for the reasons indicated.

 

Recommendation 2:

 

A plan for interim holding facilities should be developed until a new facility is built.

 

(Findings 1, 2)

 

Response: The Board agrees that an action plan needs to be adopted to deal with jail overcrowding until a new facility is built but disagrees that it needs to be a "plan for interim holding facilities". Therefore, the recommendation will not be implemented. However, the Board understands that a plan to deal with jail overcrowding has been developed and presented to Sheriff Thomas by the Jail Overcrowding Task Force. The plan (copy attached) recommends the expansion of several existing alternative sentencing programs and the initiation of one additional program. These programs, when combined with the planned construction of an additional 19 single cell wing for violent offenders, would provide for approximately 130 inmate reductions/additional cells.

 

This would in turn allow for the potential of a "cap" on the male portion of the main jail at its projected capacity with no additional dollar cost to the County. Such a cap is tentatively scheduled to be considered by the Superior Court in the latter part of August 1998. Criteria for the early release of jail inmates, should that be necessary to achieve the cap even with the recommended additional alternative sentencing programs, were also recommended in the Task Force’s report to the Sheriff. The criteria prioritize the safety of the community by retaining in jail those inmates whose

 

propensity toward violence and/or whose risk to the community has been established.

 

The Board of Supervisors would like to thank the Grand Jury for the findings and recommendations included in the subject report.

 

Sincerely,

 

 

 

GAIL MARSHALL

Chair, Board of Supervisors

 

Attachments

 

cc: Tim Putz, 1997-98 Grand Jury Foreman

Gary Monson, 1998-99 Grand Jury Foreman

Sue Gionfriddo, Chief Probation Officer

Sheriff Jim Thomas, Sheriff’s Department

Fire Chief Keith Simmons, Fire Department

Roger Heroux, Health Care Services Director