Monday, July 4, 2016
[San Diego County] Grand jury reports city’s jail a financial drain
A recent grand jury report shows that the Chula Vista jail is a financial burden for the city and does not adequately provide required services for inmates.
The city provides use of the jail in the basement of the police headquarters to the U.S. Marshals Service at a cost of $110 per inmate per day.
On average there are an estimated 30 inmates housed in the jail daily, costing the city about $155 per day.
Operating the jail costs the city of Chula Vista about $1.62 million per year, bringing in only about $1.5 million.
Chula Vista uses the jail as an initial processing facility for local arrestees, who are then transported to county jails for booking, or for individuals awaiting bail or needing to sleep off their drunkenness.
U.S. Marshals use the 48-bed jail to house pre-trial female federal detainees. However, the grand jury report says the city does not offer required services for inmates as stated in Title XV. Services such as psychiatric services, medical services and access to educational materials.
“There is a library across the street from the jail but the inmates do not have any access to books or resources in the library, we thought that needs to be accomplished,” said Melinda Richards, the grand jury forewoman.
Richards says the city is responsible for providing these services, not the marshals. Chula Vista police Capt. Vern Salle said there is an on-call nurse available for any of the inmates if they suffer health problems. He said if an inmate needs to see a health care provider they will be transported to a doctor.
As for providing educational material, Salle said the department is taking steps to partner with the Chula Vista Public Library to make reading material and periodicals available for inmates.
It is the financial cost to the city that has the grand jury concerned that the jail is not a viable investment for the city.
The San Diego County grand jury’s report recommends the city revise contract rates, increase the number of inmates or terminate the contract with the U.S Marshals.
Previously the state of California had a contract with the city to use the jail as a rehabilitation facility. The marshals entered into a contract with the city in 2011.
The Chula Vista Police Department said they respect the grand jury’s findings but do not entirely agree with it.
“While the grand jury’s report will have many of the details, overlooks the fact that the U.S. Marshal’s contract helps us offset costs that we would otherwise not be able to offset,” said Salle. “So we would spend far more money in operating our jail if we did not have this contract to offset our personnel costs.”
The police department is currently working on drafting a response to the grand jury report, Sallee said.
They have an Aug. 31 deadline.
Richards said taxpayers are paying the difference of what they city is bringing in from the Marshals and what it is costing to operate the jail.
Salle said the Chula Vista jail does not exist solely to run the Marshal’s contract. He said the purpose of the contract with the federal agency and the previous contract with the state is to offset the normal operating costs of having a booking facility in the police department, which require police service officers to book prisoners.
Salle said the city saves money with their contract with the Marshals in personnel costs. He said the department does not have to pay police officers to do what the job of a Police Service Officer.
Sallee said the city is starting the process of reopening discussions with U.S, Marshals about the contract. He said over five years, the city is saving about $822,099 by having the Marshals contract.
The grand jury also recommended the jail increase its inmate count to get more money from the Marshals. Sallee said since the report has come out the department has taken steps to raise daily inmate count. He said the break-even point is about 36 inmates a day. The city gets $110 a day for each inmate, so the more inmates they have the more it offsets operational costs without increasing staff, Salle said.
On average the daily number of inmates in the Chula Vista jail is 30.
“Frankly I think the grand jury is missing a big point and that is that by having the jail and our booking facilities within our city, it means that our police officers don’t have to go up to the jail in downtown San Diego and wait in line up there,” said City Manager Gary Halpert. “It gives us the ability to keep our police officers on the street rather than waiting in line up in downtown San Diego.”
July 2, 2016
The Star News
By Robert Moreno