Sunday, July 31, 2016
[Tehama County] Grand jury report investigates parks, jail
Among the Tehama County 2015-16 grand jury's final report was inquiries into Corning city parks and the Tehama County Jail. In all, the grand jury filed 18 inquiries made of local government agencies in its annual report.
The grand jury, consisting of 19 citizens of the county, is administered by the county Superior Court and is part of the judicial branch of the county government. Its functions are investigatory and fall into two basic categories, civil and criminal, and the jury is at time referred to as serving in a "watchdog" oversight capacity.
Grand jury inquiries are initiated with the jury itself, or through complaints from citizens alleging misconduct or irregularities in the functions of government within its jurisdiction.
Tehama County Judge Jonathan Skillman supervises the grand jury and approves its final report, which is then submitted and approved by the Tehama County Board of Supervisors.
According to grand jury foreperson Thomas Moulton, "everyone we (the grand jury) met was gracious, professional, knowledgeable and willing to answer our questions.
"As a result, we received an eye-opening education about the inner workings of our local government," he added.
The jury made its inquiry into Corning's city parks in November 2015, meeting with public work staff and viewing each of the town's nine parks. "The parks are starting to experience a homeless population impacting the parks; however, a strong police presence is helping maintain safety," the report said.
It goes on to state Salt Creek inmates are used to work on the parks, at a fee, as well as church groups in the community, free of charge.
The city contracts with an outside business to clean the parks' restrooms.
"They (the city of Corning) have been successful in generating grant money for some the newer parks, but have been unsuccessful in getting grant money for their older parks," reported the grand jury.
The report mentioned the town's two newest parks, Lennox Field, which opened in June 2015, and the Skate Park, which opened in March 2014.
In the report's findings it states, "City of Corning parks is understaffed with one full-time employee and one part-time employee," and recommends "City of Corning parks needs to increase staff."
The grand jury requested a response from Corning's City Council concerning the recommendation.
Tehama County Jail
In its inquiry into the Tehama County Jail, operated by the Tehama County Sheriff's Office, the grand jury found the jail to be within its legal limits for the number of inmates housed, but also found the jail is housing inmates for longer sentences than for which it was designed.
In addition, the grand jury found the jail was providing inmates with the option to participate in online GED programs as recommended in a previous report.
The grand jury investigation found the jail to be "well kept and clean."
There being only one sobering cell and one safety cell was reported to be an ongoing issue at the jail, according to the report.
"This is a continuing problem during rodeo times as there may be up to 10 persons in the one sobering cell at a time," said the jury report. "These cells are video monitored with physical check each hour."
Most inmate complaints are due to the jail's food and medical care, said the grand jury.
However, the grand jury in its findings stated, "jail administration has remained within its legal requirements related to inmate meals and inmate medical care."
The findings also state additional sobering and safety cells are "hoped to be constructed at a new facility." The county is in the process of expanding the jail facilities to a building across the street from the current location which will include 64 additional beds.
In its recommendations, the grand jury stated the sheriff's office "shall continue to report outlining any changes to the facility that will be required to maintain the health and safety of the inmates and the staff at the Tehama County Jail as a result of incarcerating inmates for longer sentences and more serious offenses than the jail was designed. The findings of this report shall be considered in the planning of any proposed additions to the facility."
July 20, 2016
By Julie R. Johnson