Friday, August 12, 2016

Glenn County Jail hopes for improvements

In the latest county grand jury report, members expressed concern over outdated equipment and a lack of space for inmate programs at the Glenn County Jail. In response to some of these issues, Sheriff Richard Warren Jr. is applying for a state bond worth up to $20 million to help upgrade and retrofit the nearly 30-year-old facility.
"Historically, we have gotten reports from the grand jury that we mostly agree with, but we just can't afford to make the changes," Warren said. "We hope they understand that when we don't make the repairs, it's because we can't."
The concerns outlined in the report included a lack of barriers between staff and inmates in the office that processes new arrivals and limited space for inmate programs. However, they were also concerned by the absence of new technology to keep track of inmates.
In the control tower that oversees the activities in all of the inmate housing quarters, or pods, there are dials that control the doors to every inmate cell in the prison. Officers place small numbered paper ramekins used for food condiments on the controls to cells housing violent inmates.
"When inmates are on administrative segregation because of violent behavior, it helps us remember where they are," said Officer Amanda Hahn, overseer of the control tower.
The jail doesn't use the ramekins because officals feel contempt for modern technology; the county simply doesn't have the resources for an upgrade. According to Warren, at this point, new equipment can only be obtained through assistance from the state.
Currently, the sheriff plans to apply for a state bond that's designed to meet the needs of small, under-funded counties. However, the bond functions like a loan, and the county would be required to make payments to the state.
Although the funds wouldn't be a gift, Warren said the jail desperately needs the upgrades to meet new state guidelines. Luckily, this particular bond excludes counties that have already received bond money from the state.
"I applied for a similar bond in the past, but we didn't get it," Warren said. "I think that's why we have a good chance this year."
If Glenn County were approved for the bond, the sheriff's first order of business would be tearing down the original jail adjacent to the current facility to make room for expansion. The development would focus on providing spaces to host special programs for inmates like motivational speakers and educational classes.
Currently, the jail only has one room for this purpose, and Warren believes it's too small to properly serve its function.
"The pods are separated by gender, type of offense and degree of violence," Warren said. "When we have these events and classes, we can't bring all of them in at once. One, we don't have the room. Two, we can't mix the pods and risk having opposing gang members in the same room."
Warren believes the inmate programs should have priority because they're designed to help inmates become productive members of society once they're released. Most of the bond money would be used for this purpose, but any remaining funds will be used to update equipment.
The application for the bond is due in September. Warren expects the state will make a decision by November.
August 9, 2016
By Kayla Webster

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