SANTA BARBARA COUNTY COURT HOLDING FACILITIES

Released May 10, 2000

 

INTRODUCTION

The Grand Jury's investigation of the Santa Barbara County Superior Court’s holding facilities included the study of operations and procedures, as well as the security of the courtrooms; the disembarking, loading and escorting of the inmates, the escape of a high-risk inmate, and the duty assignments of the courtroom bailiffs.

FINDINGS AND RECOMMENDATIONS

Grand Jury Finding 1:  The inmates do not always wear colored coveralls while they are being transported.

Sheriff’s Department Response to Finding 1:  The Sheriff’s Department agrees with this finding.

Board of Supervisor’s Response to Findings 1-13:  During its regular meeting of August 1, 2000, the Board of Supervisors adopted the Sheriff’s Department’s responses as the Board’s responses to all of the 13 findings in the 1999-2000 Grand Jury’s report on “Santa Barbara County Court Holding Facilities.”

Grand Jury Recommendation 1:  All inmates should wear coveralls while they are being transported and a space provided, in the holding facility, to change to civilian clothes, when so ordered by the judge.

Sheriff’s Department Response to Recommendation 1:  The recommendation will not be implemented because it is not warranted or is not reasonable.

There are many circumstances when the court orders an inmate to be dressed out when appearing on a case.  One example is drug court.   Inmates number from one to six or more each court day for this program.  Transportation officers do not have time, nor is it realistic for officers to be responsible for dressing the inmates for court.  Ties, belts and other personal property create security and safety problems for officers and inmates.

As an example, when inmates are dressed out for drug court, it is anticipated that they will not be returned to the jail.  Prisoners will be processed in the same manner as an inmate being released time served.  All their personal property, including cash money, will accompany them to the compound.  If they are accepted on a program, they will be released to Probation or a program representative from the holding facility or sometimes the courtroom.

Civilian clothing creates additional work for our Transportation officers.  To the best of their ability, inmates in civilian clothing are kept separate from the other inmates.  When the compound is full, this option does not exist.  Unfortunately, our court holding facilities are not set up to handle multiple inmates being dressed out due to security, storage and privacy issues.

Board of Supervisor’s Response to Recommendations 1–13:  During its regular meeting of August 1, 2000, the Board of Supervisors adopted the Sheriff’s Department’s responses as the Board’s responses to 12 of the 13 recommendations in the 1999-2000 Grand Jury’s report on “Santa Barbara County Court Holding Facilities,” with a refinement on Response 11.

Grand Jury Finding 2:  Kill buttons, flashing red lights, and radio/audio alarms are not installed on all vehicles.

Sheriff’s Department Response to Finding 2:  The Sheriff’s Department agrees with this finding.

Grand Jury Recommendation 2:  Kill buttons, flashing red lights and radio/audio alarms should be installed on all vehicles.

Sheriff’s Department Response to Recommendation 2:  The recommendation has not yet been implemented, but is scheduled to be implemented by the end of October, 2000.

The Sheriff’s Department has never had any inmate/ attempt to overpower an officer/ and try to steal a van or bus.  However, there is always the potential for this to happen.  Kill buttons might stop the inmates from escaping.  It would at least distract them for a few moments giving the officers time to take evasive action.  It is a good idea and would be inexpensive to install a simple switch.  Installation of kill switches in Transportation vehicles will be completed by General Services, Operations Division.

Flashing red lights are currently on all Transportation buses.  The vans are equipped with emergency lights.  They have wig/wags (headlights), a solid red and flashing blue light in the grill, and a flashing amber light in the rear.  They also have the standard emergency flashers.   However, flashing red lights draw attention to Transportation vehicles during the loading and unloading of inmates, which could create a security risk.   

We do not have radio/audio alarms.  However, it is estimated that within two months a system will be on line that will give Dispatch the ability to track all radio calls.  Dispatch personnel will be able to pinpoint the location and identify which vehicle made the transmission.  When this goes into effect, even if an officer cannot talk, he can key the microphone to contact Dispatch.  Once Dispatch is alerted, they will expect to talk to an officer.  If they cannot reach someone, assistance will be dispatched.

Grand Jury Finding 3:  Cloth seat covers are sometimes used in vehicles.

Sheriff’s Department Response to Finding 3:  The Sheriff’s Department agrees with this finding.

Grand Jury Recommendation 3:  Only washable plastic seat covers should be used for vehicles.

Sheriff’s Department Response to Recommendation 3:  The recommendation has been implemented.

Only one out of ten vehicles has cloth seats.  The newest van in the fleet, 3838, has cloth seats.  The other six vans and four buses have vinyl seats.  Vinyl seats were requested at the time Vehicle 3838 was ordered, but when it arrived, the seats were cloth.  Rather than delay getting another vehicle, it was decided to keep the van as delivered.  The cloth seats have not been an inconvenience.  This was an exception to our current practice, not the rule.

Grand Jury Finding 4:  Correction officers in the holding cells have no radio linking them with the Sheriffs’ Emergency Dispatch Center.

Sheriff’s Department Response to Finding 4:  The Sheriff’s Department agrees with this finding.

Grand Jury Recommendation 4:  Radios in the holding cells should be available to the correction officers so immediate communication can be established with the Sheriff's Emergency Dispatch Center in case of an emergency.

Sheriff’s Department Response to Recommendation 4:  The recommendation will not be implemented because it is not warranted or is not reasonable.

The radios carried by Transportation officers are the most suitable for their job description.  They are the exact models carried by patrol deputies.  The radios have OPS 1 and 2, plus Clemar and two (5 & 6) transport frequencies.

On a court day, three officers are assigned to each compound.  Currently, there are two facilities.  That means the other twelve officers are transporting inmates.  Their portables can reach Sheriff’s Dispatch once they are beyond the concrete block walls.  As an example, an officer making a radio call from the driveway of the Santa Barbara Court Holding Facility will be able to talk directly to Sheriff’s Dispatch.

Inside the facility, there are two floor officers and a control room officer.  The person monitoring the board is there to make sure nothing happens to the officers working with the inmates.  They communicate with each other using the radios.  If there is a problem, the control room officer will call the bailiffs, via radio, for assistance.  This is almost an immediate response as they are the closest deputies available.  If a situation dictates more manpower, the control room officer will call Dispatch.

Lompoc Division

Grand Jury Finding 5:  At the Lompoc Court Holding there are no visual alerts or warnings for the casual driver or unwitting pedestrian when inmates are disembarking in the alleyway from the bus. This could endanger the public and place the officers at risk.

Sheriff’s Department Response to Finding 5:  The Sheriff’s Department disagrees wholly with this finding.  Inmates will not be walking in the alleyway and safety of the public and officers is paramount.

Grand Jury Recommendation 5:  Flashing red lights should be installed and used by all vehicles unloading and loading inmates, in the alleyway, to alert and warn the foot and vehicular traffic.

Sheriff’s Department Response to Recommendation 5:  The recommendation will not be implemented because it is not warranted or is not reasonable.

Transportation officers have been unloading a bus at the Lompoc City Jail for several years.  There is very little (or no) foot traffic in that area early in the morning.  When the rare walker happens by, they usually change direction or make a wide arc to avoid getting close to the bus.  If necessary, one of the officers can exit the bus and ask vehicles or the public to move away from the bus.  We would never endanger the public or put the officers and inmates at risk.

As mentioned in our response to Recommendation 2, we prefer not to use flashing lights as it draws attention to our vehicles.

Santa Maria Division

Grand Jury Finding 6:  The proximity of the parked cars south of the sallyport entrance at the Santa Maria Court Holding interferes with the maneuverability of the buses.

Sheriff’s Department Response to Finding 6:  The Sheriff’s Department agrees with this finding.

Grand Jury Recommendation 6:  Eliminate the designated parking area that adversely affects the maneuverability of the Sheriff’s vehicle.

Sheriff’s Department Response to Recommendation 6:  The recommendation has not been implemented, but is scheduled to be implemented by the first part of August, 2000.

Parking is severely limited at the Santa Maria campus for employees and the public.  Eliminating parking spaces would create a burden adding to an already frustrating situation.

Sheriff’s Department personnel are working with General Services to either make that area designated as “Law Enforcement Vehicles Only” or a designated parking area for compact vehicles only.

Grand Jury Finding 7:  A pedestrian doorway, number 149 on the west side of sallyport, is not monitored by a video camera, as the other doors are.

Sheriff’s Department Response to Finding 7:  The Sheriff’s Department agrees with this finding.

Grand Jury Recommendation 7:  Install a video camera to monitor doorway number 149.

Sheriff’s Department Response to Recommendation 7:  The recommendation will not be implemented because it is not warranted or is not reasonable.

Placement of a camera on the exterior of doorway number 149 is not necessary.  This doorway is seldom used.  Sheriff's Department staff will instruct personnel wishing access to the Court Holding Facility to utilize doorway number 132, which is monitored by a camera, thus eliminating the need to install a camera to monitor doorway number 149.

Grand Jury Finding 8:  The hard surfaces of the walls, floors and ceiling all contribute to a high level of noise, which the GJ members found disturbing and irritating.

Sheriff’s Department Response to Finding 8:  The Sheriff’s Department disagrees partially with this finding.  Sound is at an acceptable level and is controlled by corrections staff.

Grand Jury Recommendation 8:  Correct the acoustics so that the sound is at an acceptable level.

Sheriff’s Department Response to Recommendation 8:  The recommendation will not be implemented because it is not warranted or is not reasonable.

Installation of acoustics would be considered an improvement to the facility not necessarily a maintenance or repair issue.  Acoustical panels for the Santa Maria Court Holding Facility will be expensive.  Funding of projects are based on priorities which dictate the most need.  Sheriff’s personnel have not complained about the noise level and this has not been identified as a spending priority.  However, Sheriff’s staff will continue to monitor the noise level and work with General Services in the future should official complaints of noise be received.

Figueroa Division, Santa Barbara

Grand Jury Finding 9:  The present sallyport at the downtown Santa Barbara facility is unsafe and endangers both the public and the correction officers.  This failing has been cited by previous grand juries.

Sheriff’s Department Response to Finding 9:  The Sheriff’s Department agrees with this finding.

Grand Jury Recommendation 9:  Enclose the present sallyport with an acceptable and permanent construction.

Sheriff’s Department Response to Recommendation 9:  The recommendation has not yet been implemented, but is scheduled to be completed by January, 2001.

Plans have been drawn of a covered passageway that will secure the entrance and exit of the court compound.  Although not on the scale recommended by the Grand Jury, the structure will meet security needs.

With the planned enclosed walkway, the inmates will be entirely contained after exiting a bus or a van.  The sliding metal gates at both ends will still be utilized to block off vehicular and foot traffic.

Anacapa Division, Santa Barbara

Grand Jury Finding 10:  Not all the cells have working toilets in the Anacapa Division Court Holding and no cells have water for drinking and handwashing.

Sheriff’s Department Response to Finding 10:  The Sheriff’s Department agrees with this finding.

Grand Jury Recommendation 10:  Bring the cells up to the city’s plumbing code so inmates have a sanitary facility with working toilets and running water.

Sheriff’s Department Response to Recommendation 10:  The recommendation has not yet been implemented, but it will be implemented by the first part of October, 2000.

Sheriff’s Department Custody Operations personnel are working with General Services to identify all cells within the old jail facility which will be utilized in the future to stage inmates.  These cells will be in working order as soon as General Services can schedule a plumber to make the necessary repairs.

Grand Jury Finding 11:  Portable electric floor heaters are utilized with their long cords exposed, posing a potential safety hazard.

Sheriff’s Department Response to Finding 11:  The Sheriff’s Department disagrees partially with this finding.  The portable electric floor heaters have been installed per code.

Grand Jury Recommendation 11:  Install permanent infra-red ceiling heaters.

Sheriff’s Department Response to Recommendation 11:  The recommendation will not be implemented because it is not warranted or is not reasonable.

General Services indicated no permanent ceiling heaters will be installed as it is cost prohibitive.  The Sheriff’s Department’s recommendation would be to abandon the upstairs jail after a new court holding facility is built.   The overall condition is poor.  The old jail does not meet the Board of Corrections’ standards and is not used enough to warrant the expenditure.  A new court holding facility should be constructed in the basement of the Anacapa courthouse facility to enhance security and bring a facility into compliance with Board of Corrections’ requirements.  The old jail is considered a staging area only for court appearances.  Inmates waiting to appear in court are held a maximum of two hours.  Current practice to stage inmates is about 20 to 45 minutes total.

Additional Sheriff’s staffing would be necessary to hold inmates in excess of two hours.  Male and females inmates are currently staged in this facility.  In the event the amount of time to stage inmates exceed the two-hour maximum time period, additional male and female Sheriff’s personnel would be required to supervise, monitor, and move inmates to and from courtrooms.

Board of Supervisor’s Response to Recommendation 11:  A modification of the Sheriff’s Department’s response.  As part of the response, the department indicates that “The Sheriff’s Department’s recommendation would be to abandon the upstairs jail after a new court holding facility is built  A new court holding facility should be constructed in the basement of the Anacapa courthouse.”  The adopted Board response is as follows:

The Board of Supervisors believes that the Anacapa Courthouse holding facility should be upgraded or moved.  The construction of a new holding facility in the basement of this courthouse is one option to be explored.

Grand Jury Finding 12:  The Superior Courts at the Anacapa Division and at Cook Street in Santa Maria require the Bailiffs to perform clerical duties that the Figueroa Division and Miller Street courtroom Bailiffs are not assigned. These additional obligations distract them and take their complete attention away from their primary duties of securing the courtroom.

Sheriff’s Department Response to Finding 12:  The Sheriff’s Department agrees with this finding.

Grand Jury Recommendation 12:  Reexamine the additional clerical duties assigned to the Anacapa and the Cook Street courtroom bailiffs, so their extra assignments can be alleviated or eliminated.

Sheriff’s Department Response to Recommendation 12:  The recommendation has not yet been implemented, but will be implemented in the future with approval from Superior Court Administration and Judges.

In June of 1999, the U.S. Marshals Service, Judicial Security Division, surveyed the Santa Barbara County Courts.  They came up with the same recommendation.  “Discontinue the practice of bailiffs having to perform any type of administrative functions, i.e., filling out booking sheets, call cases or summoning attorneys.”  The assignment and/or reassignment of the clerical duties originate with the Superior Court Administration and judges of the affected courtrooms.  The Sheriff’s Court Services Division will work with Superior Court Administration in resolving this disparity between the Anacapa and Cook Street Courts and the Figueroa and Miller Street Courts.

Grand Jury Finding 13:  The courtroom radio alarm system does not alert the correction officers or the Sheriff’s Emergency Dispatch Center and is not included in all of the courtrooms in the other divisions.

Sheriff’s Department Response to Finding 13:  The Sheriff’s Department agrees with this finding.

Grand Jury Recommendation 13:  Connect the new alarm system to include the correction officers along with the bailiffs in the courtrooms new alarm system, and install this system in all the courtrooms in all the divisions.

Sheriff’s Department Response to Recommendation 13:  The recommendation has not yet been implemented.  Implementation in the future will require approval from Superior Court Administration and Judges.  This is a court administration issue not a Sheriff’s Department responsibility.

The alarm system being discussed is the South County Courts Varda Alarms.  The alarm is a radio alarm and is not hard wired anywhere.  The Superior Courts Administration has not yet purchased alarms for each courtroom.  Monitoring of the alarms by the Correction Officers at the holding facility can be accomplished by the addition of another radio or scanner tuned to the proper frequency.  Monitoring of the alarm by Sheriff’s Dispatch is unnecessary and would distract from the dispatchers primary responsibilities.

 

2000-2001 Grand Jury Comments

 

The Sheriff’s Department agrees with and is implementing the majority of the thirteen Grand Jury Recommendations.  Recommendations 1,5,8, and 11 are not being implemented, but with valid explanations.