Crime, Fire + Courts

Grand jury inspects Yolo County Jail, Juvenile Hall

By April 2, 2011

Despite ongoing overcrowding issues, the Yolo County Jail is a clean, well-maintained facility where inmates enjoy access to medical care and educational programs designed to help them transition back into society, the Yolo County grand jury wrote in its final report released Friday.

The panel was similarly impressed with the Yolo County Juvenile Detention Facility — also known as Juvenile Hall — which is adjacent to the jail.

The grand jury’s inspections of the facilities did not stem from any complaints, according to the report, but rather was mandated under the state Penal Code.

No recommendations stemmed from either inspection, and no responses were requested from the Sheriff’s Department.

“Inmate overcrowding continues as an operational way of life at the jail,” says the report. Budget reductions last fall led to the closure of 30 beds at the county’s Leinberger Center —which is separate from the main jail — lowering the jail’s maximum capacity from 452 to 422.

As a result, the jail administrators have been forced to release low-risk inmates from the jail to make room for arrivals who pose a greater risk to public safety. Most misdemeanor bookings never see the housing area of the jail before being released.

Sheriff Ed Prieto said the problem could worsen if the jail is forced to shutter the Leinberger Center, a possible scenario if the county is required to make further budget cuts.

“That’s going to make a bigger impact,” Prieto said Friday. “We’re going to have to release another 100 inmates.”

The grand jury report made note of two suicides at the jail in 2010 — hangings that occurred in May and December — but said jail staff appeared to follow policy and procedures in both incidents.

“Neither inmate displayed or expressed any suicidal tendencies at the time of their booking into the facility nor did they show any such evidence while incarcerated,” the report says.

The grand jury also lauded a solar panel project adjacent to the jail that is expected to provide 80 percent of the electrical power used by both the jail and Juvenile Hall facilities, calling it “an innovative and creative effort to significantly reduce electricity costs throughout the justice complex.”

Two inspections of the Juvenile Hall facility also found it to be clean and well-run, with enthusiastic staff who “appeared highly motivated to improve the lives of minors,” the report says. “It is one of the most secure juvenile detention facilities on the West Coast.”

Like the county jail, Juvenile Hall offers education and literacy services and relies on volunteers or grant funding for additional programs in drug and alcohol recovery, teen parenting and anger management, the report says.

The grand jury report highlighted the juvenile facility’s contract with the Department of Homeland Security to house young offenders from across the country who are awaiting resolution of immigration issues. Last year, one of the minors became the first in the nation to obtain a general-education degree while under immigration detention.

Based on a citizen complaint, the grand jury also examined the Woodland Police Department’s vehicle towing dispatch procedures but found the agency follows “applicable laws and rules” and issued no recommendations.

— Reach Lauren Keene at [email protected] or (530) 747-8048.

Lauren Keene

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