Monday, August 4, 2014
Grand jury sites areas of improvement for public safety realignment in Solano County
July 15, 2014
The Reporter, Vacaville
By Melissa Murphy
An investigation by the Solano County grand jury into the county's implementation of Assembly Bill 109, the state's Public Safety Realignment Act to reduce prison overcrowding, shows areas of improvement, according to a report released Tuesday.
The grand jury investigated the implementation plan of the AB 109 Realignment Act and the impact it will have on the county. It also reviewed the County of Solano 2011 Public Safety Realignment Implementation Plan.
"The grand jury has concerns with the length of time in the execution of this plan and the providing of facilities and their proper staffing," the grand jury reported.
AB 109 was passed in order to reduce inmate population in state prisons, leaving the counties to perform some of the state's former responsibilities and duties associated with the sentencing and supervisions of criminals that are non-violent, non-serious and non-sex offender. The initial reduction of the prison population resulted in the Solano County Probation Department receiving approximately 300 additional offenders, according to the grand jury report.
The grand jury concluded its report with seven recommendations including the acceleration of the full implementation of the plan. Additionally, the report noted that "there is no evidence that recidivism rates are being tracked by any agency in Solano County" and that the Probation Department should work cooperatively with the Sheriff's office to track the recidivism rates and provide quarterly reports to the Community Corrections Partnership.
The grand jury also reported that realignment contributes to property crimes in the communities and that there has been a marked increase in assaults on law enforcement personnel in the jails and on the streets.
Solano County Sheriff Tom Ferrara said he couldn't comment on how realignment has impacted individual cities in the county, but did confirm that assaults on law enforcement in the jails have increased.
Ferrara also referred to his response to a previous grand jury report about the Claybank Adult Detention Center. He reported that inmate violence on staff increased from 12 assaults in 2011, prior to Realignment, to 46 in 2013 at both the Justice Center Detention Facility and the Claybank Detention Facility. He also noted that inmate population in Solano County has increased from an average of 750 in 2011 to 950 in 2013.
"We're implementing different security measures and additional training," he said. "We're always working on it."
Additionally, the grand jury has several recommendations for the Day Reporting Centers in the county. The Probation Department has a staff of 80 to handle the former state prison inmates that have been assigned to a Day Reporting Center. The purpose of the centers in Vallejo and Fairfield is to assist in the education, counseling and job training.
"The goal is to reduce the recidivism rate of prisoners once released from jail," the grand jury noted.
The grand jury reported that during its investigation it found that the Vallejo Day Reporting Center is under utilized and was seeing only 26 clients at an annual operating cost of $800,000. The grand jury recommends making the "necessary changes" to the implementation plan that will result in "full and cost effective utilization" of the reporting center.
For now the Probation Office in Fairfield is being remodeled to temporarily meet the needs of a Day Reporting Center for Fairfield. There also are plans to purchase and construct a new facility adjacent to the Solano County Health and Social Services offices off of Beck Avenue to be a permanent location for the Fairfield Day Reporting Center.
The grand jury recommends that the county expeditiously complete the renovation of their current building to be used as a temporary center without delaying the construction of the permanent center.
The final comment in the report from the grand jury noted that "a great deal of time and money has been spent on this plan with no means to measure progress toward success."
The Solano County grand jury reports are available online at www.solano.courts.ca.gov.