Tuesday, January 10, 2012

2011 Monterey County grand jury raps jail, welfare

by SUNITA VIJAYAN - The Californian.com

Staffing shortages at the jail and inadequate security policies at the youth detention center pose potentially public-safety problems for the community, according to the 2011 Monterey County Civil Grand Jury report released Monday.

The jail and detention center were among two of four areas reviewed by the 13-member grand jury. The areas included: the detention facilities, welfare operations, special districts and the Monterey Peninsula Regional Park District.

Fernando Elizondo, a retired Salinas school superintendent, served as the grand jury foreman. He said the jury made recommendations for welfare operations and the detention facilities — two areas he thinks will reverberate most with the public. The findings in the other two areas, Elizondo said, will serve mostly for informational purposes because the grand jury didn't find anything out of sorts with them.

Though the grand jury has no authority to enforce its recommendations, the target agencies must respond to the report findings.

The 2011 report was released on the same day the 2012 grand jury was sworn in by Superior Court presiding Judge Timothy Roberts. The 19 sworn jurors will be tasked with examining relevant issues in the coming year.

The grand jury, as required by law, investigated and inspected detention facilities in the county — the jail, juvenile hall, youth detention center and both state prisons in Soledad.

The grand jury found that staffing shortages at the county jail resulted in hours of overtime for some officers, leading to sleep and rest deprivation. The grand jury urged the Sheriff's Office to review its overtime policies and make appropriate changes.

"In (August 2011), a four-week work month with 160 regular work hours, one deputy worked over 284 work hours," the report states. "That deputy worked 124 hours of overtime, the equivalent of 10 extra 12-hour work days, and 24 out of the 28 work days."

Moreover, the grand jury found that only 62 of 84 sworn officers were available for duty in October. The rest of them — 26 percent of the payroll — were on leave, the report states.

Following nine escapes from the Youth Center in 2011, the grand jury recommends a re-evaluation of its security policies.

"While the grand jury did not have time to adequately investigate these three incidents of security breaches, they are indicative of problems with current security policies and procedures," the report states.

As for the welfare operations of the county Department of Social and Employment Services, the grand jury focused on three areas in the community benefits branch including:

ª The eligibility and process of applying

ª The use of electronic benefits transaction, or EBT cards and Medi-Cal

ª And mandated reporting of sexual assaults against children under 14.

The grand jury recommended retraining of mandated reporters because "eligibility workers have not been processing mandated suspected child-abuse reports for girls under age 14 years (who are) applying for Medi-Cal-covered induced abortions and other pregnancy services."

Improvements to the department's processing system are also needed because of an increase in the number of applications, the report states.

Nonetheless, Elizondo said, the grand jury is impressed with the consistent level of services still being provided to residents by agencies given the limited resources available overall.

"Given the challenging economic situation ... our county services, our city and schools are maintaining fiscal responsibility and, what's more important, they're maintaining services to Monterey County," he said.

1 comment:

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Logan and an official response by the City of Patterson have alleged that grand jurors were biased against the city in their report.