Monday, December 5, 2016
[Kern County] Grand Jury gives closer look at county's Central Receiving Facility
The closure in late June of the Kern County jail facility in Ridgecrest has focused the public's attention on challenges facing local law enforcement.
According to Ridgecrest Police Chief Ron Strand, RPD books roughly 1200 detainees a year--based on data from the past three years. Strand said 25% of these have historically been transported to the Kern County Sheriff's Office Central Receiving Facility in Bakersfield. The rest were historically booked either in Ridgecrest or Mojave.
Strand said it is too soon to tell exactly how the recent jail closure will ultimately affect these statistics going forward.
Strand said currently some detainees are held in a holding cell in Ridgecrest and some are cited and released. The remainder are transported to Mojave or the CRF, usually by the new Community Service Officers.
A recent report gives some insight into the Central Receiving Facility many of these detainees are being booked into. The Law and Justice Committee of the 2016-2017 Kern County Grand Jury paid the facility a visit on Aug. 15 to perform an annual inspection. The resulting report gives some statistics and history on the facility as well as making a number of recommendations. According to the report, CRF needs to work on its daily housekeeping issues, possibly clean up their food handling practices, re-key locks add and add signage to an unsecured basement entrance.
History and statistics
The four-story building on Truxtun Avenue in Bakersfield opened for operations in 1958. It was closed from 1993 to 1998 and operations were transferred to the facility at Lerdo. The CRF reopened in 1998 as the Inmate Reception Center for booking, processing and housing inmates in Kern County.
The CRF holds a maximum capacity of 292 male and female inmates. On the inspection date, it held 73 male and 22 female inmates. According to the report, the average cost per inmate (excluding medical costs) is $85.17 a day or approximately $31,087.05 a year.
The facility houses no federal inmates.
According to the report, four inmates escaped in the four month period between Apr. 15 and Aug. 15, and all four were returned to custody. The details of the escapes were as follows: one inmate escaped from a Kern County courtroom, one escaped from Kern Medical while under guard, one escaped from Kern Medical wearing an ankle monitor and one inmate escaped by hiding underneath an inmate transportation bus.
The CRF provides onsite and offsite medical staff 24/7 and has two mental health staff members at the facility on a daily basis. The facility has an Automated External Defibrillator available for medical emergencies.
Inmates receive three meals a day, prepared and processed at the Lerdo Facility then transported to CRF.
The facility has 128 cameras. Designated CRF deputies wear Taser Axon Body Worn Cameras. According to the report, a pilot program was started on March 12, 2015 which equipped 10 deputies with BWCs and “currently the BWC video recordings are kept indefinitely and have unlimited storage capacity.”
The report quotes the Kern County Sheriff's Office as saying they are “committed to zero-tolerance for any form of sexual abuse and sexual harassment. The KCSO Detention Bureau is committed to enforcing the standards set forth by the Prison Rape Elimination Act (PREA). The KCSO conducts a thorough PREA intake screening of each inmate received at the jail.”
Health and safety issues and recommendations
The Central Receiving Facility, Kern County's main book facility, needs to work on their daily housekeeping issues according to the report. Also a priority should be re-keying locks to reduce the number of required keys from 38 to five and adding signage to an unsecured basement entrance.
Other recommendations included closely monitoring general maintenance and facility repairs, and ensuring the process for food storage and handling complies with the California Code of Regulations.
The committee reported observing several health and safety issues during the facility inspection. Three of the issues identified related to food.
“Several bags containing food items for inmates were sitting on the floor. These items required refrigeration. CRF staff was unable to confirm the length of time these sandwiches, which contained meat and cheese, had been sitting out. These food items were immediately discarded,” according to the report. The report also noted a freezer log entry posted a day ahead of time and the fact that “several areas were littered with trash and food items.”
Other health and safety issues observed at the CRF, according to the report included leaky faucets, trash in a water fountain, broken furniture and tile, and altered or missing drainage grate covers. The report also notes “[a] shower head in the male dress-out room had a plastic bag over the nozzle. According to Staff, this was done to direct the water flow when filling buckets. This shower is operable for inmate use, as needed.” The report also noted that a shower on Deck B “was littered with trash.”
The first recommendation listed is to reduce the number of keys required by the CRF. According to the report, the facility currently has 109 locks that require 38 keys to access the jail doors. The goal is to reduce the number of keys needed to five.
“This project should be elevated and given priority, it has been an ongoing issue and noted in prior Grand Jury Reports since 2012-2103,” according to the report.
December 1, 2016
By Jessica Weston