Monday, May 17, 2010

Mendocino Grand jury: Juvenile hall repeaters a problem

Ukiah Daily Journal Staff
Updated: 05/17/2010 12:00:34 AM PDT

But found the place well-run

The Daily Journal

While the county's juvenile hall appears to be well run by caring staff, the Mendocino County Grand Jury, in its report issued Sunday, also said it found the 60 percent recidivism rate too high and was puzzled by a case where a young offender was kept in the hall for three years - two years longer than state law allows.

The grand jury - which has been releasing 2009-10 reports since Friday - is required each year to inspect the county's juvenile hall on Low Gap Road. It generally houses young criminal offenders under 18, although a young person can be kept there until the age of 19.

"The facility is managed and dedicated to providing a safe and secure environment. The administrators and staff have implemented several programs for educating and rehabilitating youth for re-entry into society," the report said.

"The GJ is concerned about staffing levels and cost, a 60 percent recidivism rate, limited mental health services, and the excessive length of incarceration for one youth who was held in excess of three years."

Other grand jury findings:

The 2009/2010 County budget provides funding for 30.8 positions which includes a three percent vacancy factor.

The staff consists of one Superintendent, five Supervising Correction Counselors, and 17 Correction Counselors, of which five positions are vacant; one licensed vocational nurse on site 32 hours per week, a mental health clinician, and four kitchen staff.
Three Correction Counselors are bilingual.

Adequate staffing is mandated by the State at a ratio of one Correction Counselor per 10 juveniles for days and evening shifts and one Supervising Correction Counselor per 30 juveniles for the night shift. One female Correction Counselor must be on the premises at all times.

Savings created by short staffing may be offset by an increase in overtime pay to meet mandated staffing levels.

Five vacant full time Correction Counselor positions are being supplanted by four part-time extra help Correction Counselors.

The staff works eight hour shifts, five days per week. Two of the five supervisors work four 10-hour shifts. The schedule provides time for staff to continue their education.

The Mendocino County Office of Education provides three full time teachers, one special educational resource aide, and one paraprofessional. Four substitute teachers are available. The maximum capacity of MCJH is 42 youth, however the facility is considered full at 40. On October 28, 2009, there were 21 youth: 15 males and six females.

A physician or physician's assistant is available on call 24/7.

Seventy percent of youth have substance abuse issues. Sixty percent of the youth are repeat offenders. Approximately 30 percent of the youth have behavioral problems and require 75 percent of staff time.

Mendocino Youth Project staff provides mental health services on site, 20 hours a week.

Video observation and electronic security are maintained for doors and common areas throughout the facility at all times. At the time of the GJ visit, there was one camera that would not rotate properly and did not cover its intended yard area.

The average length of stay is 15 days. The maximum sentence at MCJH is one year. The stay can be longer for un-sentenced youth.

One un-sentenced youth was recently incarcerated for over three years.

Parents/guardians are billed on a sliding scale, up to $18 per day, for the cost of incarcerating a youth in MCJH. The maximum bill for each stay is $900. Reimbursement is problematic.

There is zero tolerance for anything gang related.

MCJH does not receive asset forfeiture funds.

The grand jury recommends that:

State mandated staffing ratios be implemented and maintained at all times by hiring part-time, on call, employees to reduce the necessity for overtime pay.

MCJH provide full time mental health and substance-abuse counseling resources to incarcerated youth to prevent high recidivism rates.

MCJH repair the surveillance camera.

The District Attorney shall insure that timely disposition of each case will occur to guarantee that no youth is incarcerated for more than the statutory one year maximum at MCJH.

Improve the system of billing and collecting from parents/guardians to offset the daily cost of incarcerating the youth in the facility.

Anti-gang educational programs funded through asset forfeiture funds be utilized at MCJH.

Responses from various county agencies involved with juvenile hall will be required as usual.

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