Friday, July 11, 2014
(Tehama County) Grand jury reports on coroner’s office, jail
July 8, 2014
By Julie R. Johnson/Corning Observer
The Tehama County 2013-14 grand jury documented several investigations into county departments and facilities in its final report, including the Coroner's Office and the jail.
The grand jury found the Coroner's Office to function well within the confines of its responsibilities as required under government code, and reported the staff to be "well trained and experienced in performing their assigned duties."
Recommendations from the jury included the purchase and installation of an additional two-person cold storage unit which would be useful for storage of larger-sized bodies, and the purchase and installation of a commercial type washer and dryer unit for cost-effective measures.
By law, the coroner's office is required to investigate any sudden, violent, or unusual deaths, or deaths that fall within the jurisdiction of the county coroner, establish the positive identity of the deceased and determine the date, time, circumstance and the cause and manner of death.
Members of the grand jury met with the staff of the Tehama County sheriff/coroner in October and November.
The jury reported the Coroner's Office consists of Tehama County Sheriff/Coroner Dave Hencratt, supervising assistant to the coroner and two deputy coroners.
Grand jury members learned each staff member is trained in the laws and policies relating to their duties, each has years of experience handling cases and the office has received no documented complaints during the years of the current administration.
According to the report, records indicate 279 cases were investigated by the Coroner's Office last year.
Autopsies may be required on an average of 25 to 30 cases each year to determine the cause of death. According to records, six autopsies were performed outside of the county requiring a forensic pathologist and 25 autopsies were performed in the local facilities last year.
Autopsy costs vary by case, ranging in average from $300 to $500, with cases requiring a forensic pathologist reaching $2,500, reported the grand jury.
Tehama County Jail
As required by law, the grand jury toured the Tehama County Jail, inquiring into the condition and management of the facility.
"The grand jury found the facility well-kept," the report said. "The staff was cordial and cooperative and the inmates interviewed were clean and respectful."
The report noted the county is moving ahead with plans to build a new Day Reporting Center to deal with the effects of the state's prison realignment program.
Grand jury members visited the jail in October and February, conducting "extensive" interviews with staff and inmates.
"The inmates interviewed expressed feeling safe and respected," the report said. "They said they have access to jail administration when needed. Medical, dental and counseling services are available upon request."
During the investigation, the grand jury learned there are only two holding cells at the jail — one designated as a solitary confinement/safety cell, the other a sobering cell.
In its findings, the grand jury said there is a need for additional sobering/safety cells, a need for bilingual staff, a lack of parenting classes, the GED program is not functioning and there is a lack of activities for inmates "such as board games, art materials, exercise equipment, books and job opportunities."
However, the jury commended the jail on its vocational program, projected plans for the proposed day reporting center, and kitchen staff's recycling program.
The grand jury recommended jail administration seek sources for contributions of activity supplies for the inmates, and placing a "higher priority on hiring bilingual personnel as new hires occur."
The report said the proposed day reporting center has the potential to rectify some of the problems the jail is currently facing, such as additional safety/sobering cells.