Report: Jail must plan for growth
Designed more than a decade ago to house no more than seven female inmates at a time, Wayne Brown Correctional Facility now holds as many as 30.
In a review of the jail and other county holding facilities, the Nevada County Civil Grand Jury listed the changing demographics of Wayne Brown as a sign the county needs to craft a long-term expansion plan for the jail.
The report, issued this week, was also critical of security at the county sheriff’s office substation in Truckee and the radio communication system at the Nevada County Superior Court in Nevada City, where deputies inside the building cannot communicate with deputies outside.
The Washington Ridge Conservation Camp, where juveniles are detained by the California Youth Authority, received a glowing review with no recommendations for improvement.
Nevada County Sheriff Keith Royal said the grand jury, a citizen panel that investigates public agencies, raised valid points in its review of his office.
“It’s a fair assessment of our current situation,” Royal said.
Wayne Brown opened in 1992 and was designed to hold 223 inmates: seven woman and 216 men. There are also five medical cells.
Since that time, however, the number of female inmates in the jail has risen, with 20-to-30 commonly being held. Royal acknowledged the problem and said the total jail population is also high, at about 200 inmates at a time.
“We have seen significant increases … in diversity of the inmates,” he said.
Inmates are assigned to cells based on sex, age, criminal sophistication, seriousness of their charges, physical and mental needs, violent and nonviolent behavior and other criteria.
Because of space limitations, most female inmates – no matter what crime they are charged with – are housed in the minimum-security dormitory area. The women are still classified according to alleged crime, however, and those classified as moderate-to-high-security inmates are not allowed to have contact with those in minimum security, Capt. Ken Duncan said.
“We’re complying with the law,” Duncan said. “We are doing what we have always been doing on a daily basis.”
The jail staff has been doing a good job working with limited resources, Royal said. Two times, however, Duncan said the jail was so full the sheriff’s department has had to ask the courts for permission to release sentenced inmates several days before the end of the sentence. The inmates were not released.
“We are on the threshold of having that dilemma,” Royal said.
The first expansion, although relatively small in scope, may take place in two or three months, Royal said. The sheriff’s department has received approval to add 27 extra beds into existing cells.
Duncan and Royal also said early planning research has been done for a physical addition to the jail. The project is still five to seven years away, Duncan said.
“The (jail addition) is a long-term project,” Royal said, adding the price tag for such an expansion could run $4 to $6 million.
Truckee locationvulnerable to escape
The sheriff’s office’s substation in Truckee houses people arrested in eastern Nevada County and inmates who are transported daily from Wayne Brown for appearance before the court in Truckee. The site is allowed to hold inmates for a maximum of 96 hours, excluding weekends or holidays.
The grand jury concluded a carport near the rear of the facility posed a danger to officers and the public because it is not secure enough to prevent inmates from escaping. Inmates are brought in and out of the substation through the carport, which has no security fencing. It also is near a library, the report states.
The grand jury’s recommendation was to install a physical barrier, similar to the one at Wayne Brown, around the carport.
Wayne Brown has an enclosed garage where a gate comes down after an inmate is taken into custody.
“When you put the system in, it can get very expensive,” Royal said.
Royal said the department will explore how much money is available for the project and said the result could be just as simple as a chain-link fence.
“It might not be possible this year; it could be a couple of years down the road,” he said.
Communication woesbeing addressed
The grand jury’s third criticism, of the radio communication system at the county courthouse, is about three to four months away from being fixed, Royal said.
The problem stems from a departmental switch to a new communication system. Older radios were given to deputies at the jail for use inside the building. They do not work with the ones deputies use outside. The grand jury recommended new radios be placed in the courthouse as soon as possible.
The sheriff’s office has to reply to the grand jury’s recommendation by Aug. 27, while the Nevada County Board of Supervisors has until Sept. 27.
Ways to improve:
Following are the Nevada County Civil Grand Jury’s recommendations to the county on jail oversight:
– Ensure that the changing mix of housing needs at the jail are in compliance with state law.
– Begin making plans for the long-term expansion of the jail to meet future requirements.
– Secure the open carport at the Truckee substation with a physical barrier to prevent inmate escape.
– Put new Nevada County Courthouse holding facility radios into service as soon as frequency testing is completed.
On the web:
Grand Jury Report
CORRECTIONAL AND HOLDING FACILITIES
IN NEVADA COUNTY
Grand Jury Report
CODE COMPLIANCE IN NEVADA COUNTY
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