Tuesday, June 27, 2017
Marin [County] grand jury urges schooling for jail inmates
The Marin County Jail should work with county education officials to provide schooling to all jail inmates who lack a high school diploma, the General Educational Development test or High School Equivalency test, the grand jury said.
In a report titled “Marin County Jail Education: No One Should Be Barred,” jurors compared educational opportunities for inmates at San Quentin State Prison and the San Francisco County Jail. The grand jury concluded that the academic programs at Marin County Jail lacked resources.
“The officials at MCOE and the Marin County Jail are unaware of the educational programs that are being implemented in other penal institutions,” the grand jury reported. “They are not actively trying to improve the programs within the Marin County Jail. Their attitude is ‘this is what we have had for years and it is good enough.’”
The grand jury recommends that MCOE apply for additional funding for the jail’s educational program, that county educators work with the jail to increase hours of teacher time with inmates and that they evaluate programs to ensure that inmates are working toward GED or HiSet tests.
“MCOE has not pursued additional funds to finance the education program at the Marin County Jail,” the grand jury reported. “The AB 109 money in the Community Corrections Partnership, State Education Department (which funds other county jails) and a charter school option are all possibilities worth investigating.”
Assembly Bill 109 was enacted in 2011 to reduce the state prison population by housing nonviolent felons in county jails instead. The bill, also known as “realignment,” came with funding from the state to implement, upgrade and enhance jail programs, which the grand jury said should be used for a more involved education program.
The county has been receiving approximately $5 million per year to use for this realignment program, the grand jury said. “Although there is a provision in the law for the money to be used for jail education, Marin County has not allotted any to the MCOE program.”
The MCOE provides two part-time credentialed teachers and offers educational programs to inmates who volunteer to participate. The teachers are employed for a total of 26.5 hours a week and are available to inmates for 12.5 hours. There is another teacher who is given 7.5 hours a week to give the GED or HiSet tests, but if no one signs up, the teacher doesn’t go in, according to the report.
“I would always be interested in doing what we could to help rehabilitate people who end up in jail, but that’s in the context of limited or no resources,” said Mary Jane Burke, county superintendent of schools. “The Office of Education does not receive any resources to provide the education program at the jail and we will be prepared to work with the sheriff to see if there is potential for additional funding available.”
She said Sheriff Bob Doyle “has been a strong collaborator with our schools for many years and I will expect that we will collaborate for what is the best response to this report.”
The Marin County Jail has a culinary program that consists of building restaurant skills, baking and a two-hour class plus a test to qualify for a food handler’s card. The programs serve eight to 10 people at a time, according to the report.
The grand jury reported that when inmates receive education while incarcerated recidivism is reduced, inmate expenses are reduced, inmates are more likely to obtain employment after release and inmate violence is less likely, among other benefits.
Sheriff Doyle said, “I think comparing us to San Quentin and San Francisco County is not a fair comparison.”
That’s because Marin County Jail has 376 beds and averages a daily population of approximately 293 inmates, which is 77 percent occupancy.
Most of the inmates are in pre-trial status, which averages a 15-day stay at the jail, or are sentenced inmates, who average 45 days, Doyle said.
There are currently 30 inmates who are nonviolent felons housed at the jail under the provisions of AB 109. Of those inmates, 24 have high school diplomas, Doyle said.
“San Quentin is set up to house people for long periods of time, so they have a lot of educational and vocational space,” he said. “San Francisco County has a couple of thousand prisoners who serve a totally different socioeconomic population than we do.”
He continued, “It’s not that we think education isn’t important ... it’s that our space is limited. We were never designed to keep people long term.”
By comparison, the San Francisco County Jail subscribes to the Five Keys Program, a nonprofit corporation hired by the San Francisco Unified School District to provide a charter school environment as if it were a regular high school, according to the report. The grand jury suggests that the Marin County Jail look into adopting the program.
San Quentin imposes mandatory testing for reading and math for new inmates and if he doesn’t have a diploma, GED or HiSet, he is assigned a class to earn one. The state prison also offers several vocational programs and computer literacy programs.
Krissi Khokhobashvili, public information officer for the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation, said the department shares student academic records with the jails to ensure smooth transition.
“In addition, CDCR is willing to work with counties to help articulate academic, career technical education, teacher development, and technology initiatives,” she said.
June 25, 2017
Marin Independent Journal
By Adrian Rodriguez