Monday, July 2, 2012

Shasta County grand jury criticizes sheriff, county on several fronts

Third floor of Shasta jail needs to be open, report says
By Sean Longoria, Jim Schultz
Posted June 28, 2012 at 11:28 p.m.
This year's Shasta County grand jury found county officials have done little to address the effects of the state plan to shift low-level prison inmates to county supervision.

The grand jury also took the Shasta County sheriff's office to task for a lack of communication among deputies in a 2011 missing-person case that ended with a man's death; a perceived bias against female inmates at Shasta County jail; and handling some trust accounts fed by fines and court-imposed fees.

Here are the report's key findings on the sheriff's office from the jury's latest report, released Thursday.

'All talk and no action'

The jury found the sheriff's office needs to open the third floor of the jail, the department should send qualified inmates to Sugar Pine Conservation Camp and mandatory releases at the jail have created a "catch and release" mentality in the community.

The jury — echoing remarks from Shasta County Sheriff Tom Bosenko — found the third floor of the jail remains closed because of a lack of staffing.

"The sheriff's department contends it has been unable to locate qualified personnel using its current recruitment data," the jury wrote.

Meanwhile, Redding police reported 379 parolees were arrested for parole violations between Oct. 1 and May 8, and 165 of those people were arrested on new charges, according to the jury report. Shasta County Superior Court officials reported during the same time there were 438 felony failures to appear, and more than 75 percent of those were committed by ex-inmates now on county supervision.

"Most arrestees are being released almost immediately from custody resulting in a revolving door for repeat offenders," jurors said. "Opening the third floor of the jail would make 128 additional beds available."

Bosenko said opening the third floor of the jail remains a priority.

"I agree with them. My staff has been working very hard on recruitment and hiring," he said, adding attrition through retirement and reassignment has added to vacancies at the jail.

One round of hiring was done after testing nearly 100 applicants, and another will soon begin. But only three positions have been filled so far, Bosenko said last week. Those positions will open to applicants through the county's personnel department in the near future, he said Thursday.

At least two expected opening dates for the third floor have come and gone, and Bosenko declines to predict a time frame.

Realignment also has put state fire camps — specifically the Sugar Pine Conservation Camp — in danger of closing, the jury found, although Bosenko said he hadn't heard that was the case.

Julie Hutchinson, spokeswoman for the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection, said none of the state's conservation camps has been targeted for closure.

Bosenko said he, along with other county sheriffs in California, are working on a contract with the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation to send local jail inmates to fire camps.

He also said deputies are doing all they can to hold people in the jail for as long as they can based on population and inmates' offenses. Inmate population is typically about 90 to 96 percent of jail capacity, he said.

"We are exploring other options with jail beds in other counties. However, available jail beds are limited throughout California," Bosenko said.

The jury in that report also recommended at least one Shasta County supervisor needs to attend meetings of the committee tasked with implementing the county's realignment plan; that committee needs to hire a project manager to oversee the plan and open a center for reporting and assessment of ex-inmates under county supervision.

"The county has been charged with implementing AB 109 for 12 months and little has been accomplished," the jury wrote. " ... There is no Community Corrections Center, the third floor of the jail remains closed, there is no transitional housing and in the city of Redding property crimes are up."

Supervisor Les Baugh said he agreed with the jury's findings and supervisors already have directed County Executive Larry Lees to bring them recommendations on how to get the county realignment plan moving more rapidly. He favors putting a program manager in place to oversee the plan's implementation.

"The bottom line is nothing has happened," Baugh said. "I think the challenge is you have people who are taking care of a lot of jobs, and all of a sudden everything has been laid in your lap by the state California."

Chief Probation Officer Wes Forman, also a member of the Community Corrections Partnership executive committee, didn't return a call seeking comment.

Better communication could have aided search

A sheriff's deputy who didn't tell his supervisor a missing man was mentally challenged and an unjustified change in case designation delayed the search for the Redding man found dead in January four days after he walked away from his home, the jury found.

Search-and-rescue teams found Esco Mosher, 53, dead from hypothermia Jan. 5 last year in a wooded area between Redding and Anderson. Mosher's family said he had been missing since Jan. 1 after he walked away from his Redding home.

His niece, Gloria, said she and other family members took the case to the grand jury after the sheriff's office screwed up "big time."

"We felt there was a wrongful death here," she said Thursday.

Mosher's family told the deputy he'd been to the hospital a day earlier for a medical and mental health exam, the jury found. That information wasn't relayed to the sheriff's supervisor, jurors said.

"The grand jury was informed by a sheriff supervisor that had this information been available to him earlier a search may have been initiated sooner," the jury wrote in its report.

Bosenko agreed better communication could have resulted in an immediate deployment of search and rescue.

"On evaluation of the incident, yes, communication could have been better. … We've since revised that, prior to this report," he said.

But he didn't agree with the jury finding a lack of debriefing during shift changes.

"We have formal briefings for each shift, and we have for 30 years here," Bosenko said.

Further, deputies changed Mosher's designation from "missing/at risk" to "overdue/not at risk" after family members said he could be at a friend's house. That change ran contrary to state penal code, which states Mosher's medical and health problems should have designated him "missing/at risk," jurors said.

"We are in concurrence that it should have not taken place," Bosenko said.

Bias at jail

Jurors interviewed jail staffers and female inmates, finding male inmates get more opportunity to work and have a wider range of available jobs, incoming female inmates don't receive an orientation handbook, only those seeking high-school equivalency diplomas are allowed to further their education and the jail has inadequate access to feminine hygiene products for some female inmates.

Bosenko disagreed with most of those findings, noting jobs at the jail are limited because of safety and security reasons and deputies aren't allowed to mix male and female inmates. Women also have the opportunity to perform cleaning jobs in addition to laundry and being teacher's aides, he said.

Grand jurors said there is only one teacher's aide position available.

About 10 of the approximately 30 female inmates at the jail at any given time can't work because of medical reasons, refusal to work or their charges don't make them eligible for work programs.

"In reviewing our files, not every male can do work and not every female can do work," he said.

Hard copies of jail handbooks are available to all inmates upon request and a kiosk with the same information is in each housing unit, he said.

The jail provides female inmates with feminine hygiene pads as part of a kit distributed to all inmates.

Extra supplies are available upon request or through the jail commissary, Bosenko said.

High-school equivalency programs are available to male and female inmates. The jury said some female inmates requested job-readiness, computer and parenting classes.

Bosenko said existing classes do offer computer and job-readiness training. The jury report was the first request he'd heard for parenting classes, he said.

Trust accounts

The jury, in its review of the county's annual audit, found the sheriff's office hadn't consistently reconciled accounts used to temporarily hold money collected from judgments, court collection fees, wage garnishments, work release fees, permit fees and other fees.

The sheriff's office hired a consultant to correct the error and is working to ensure accounts will be reconciled yearly, the jury found.

Bosenko said his office found and corrected the problems even before the jury's investigation.

"The sheriff's office accounting unit discovered some accounts had not been reconciled and that dated back to before I became sheriff," Bosenko said.

"Nothing was found out of order."

Other findings

The jurors also looked into other items. Their findings included: Shasta County spends less than other counties on fire protection as the number of volunteer firefighters is dropping; the Mountain Gate Community Services District needs to do a better job developing an employee manual; most of the county's special district boards need better training on state open government and transparency laws; the Redding Airport needs to expand to serve larger airlines; Redding's red-light cameras are effective in reducing wrecks; there were no problems with the Shasta County coroner's office, Redding's solid waste transfer facility, Shasta Area Safety Communication Agency, the county juvenile hall or the county's law enforcement firearms shooting simulator.

Reporter Jim Schultz contributed to this story.

1 comment:

HaM said...

Great quick over view of one of the most down to earth Shasta County G J reports I've seen in my short time..Thank you all for your hard work combined with qualified diligence.James R Hamilton