Nevada County inmates release time delayed by four hours
Prior to a policy change made by Nevada County Sheriff’s Captain Shannan Moon in May, inmates who had just been released from the Wayne Brown Correctional Facility could often be seen walking along Highway 49 north of downtown Nevada City well before sunrise.
The jail’s standard policy was to release inmates at 4 a.m., according to Moon, who has now changed that time to 8 a.m.
She said local service providers had repeatedly questioned her about the reasoning behind the early morning release time.
Representatives from some of Nevada County’s mental health and homeless services agencies were concerned, Moon said, that inmates who were being released from the jail weren’t immediately able to get the services they might need, and were instead roaming the streets until local agencies opened for business.
Moon said the reason for the 4 a.m. release time policy wasn’t immediately clear to her when she became captain in 2016, so she started to inquire.
“After talking with the past captains that worked in the jail, everybody kind of pointed to the fact that that’s the downtime for staff,” she said.
Jail staff members who work at night finish their shifts at 7 a.m., when the daytime staff members arrive, according to Moon.
She explained that daytime staff members are often extremely busy at the beginning of their shifts, whereas the night staff has more time available in the early morning hours.
But that wasn’t a good enough reason for Moon to uphold the policy, she said. The jail now releases inmates at 8 a.m., when the Nevada County Department of Social Services opens at the Eric Rood Administrative Center, next door to the jail.
“Staffing-wise, it does put us in a bit of a bind now,” Moon said.
To compensate, Moon has asked the night shift staff to do the preparatory work for releases, such as completing the necessary paperwork, getting the inmates’ clothing ready and talking with medical staff.
“But we don’t physically let people out until the day shift people come on,” she said.
Janella Kirkman, executive director of the SPIRIT Peer Empowerment Center, which provides mental health counseling in Grass Valley, said the change in release time is hugely beneficial to the community.
“I’m so glad this finally happened,” Kirkman said. “What we were finding was that some people were out wandering the streets between 4 and 8 a.m. and were ending up back in jail before services even opened.”
But not everybody in the community is pleased by the new policy, Moon said.
“Most of our incarcerated population wants to get out earlier, so I’ve had a lot of complaints from inmates,” she said.
Moon said she is open to considering revisions to any jail policies that don’t serve the community.
“If there are other impacts that social services or other agencies see, we are always willing to collaborate and listen, and at least see if there’s a specific reason we do something,” she said.
To contact Staff Writer Matthew Pera, email firstname.lastname@example.org or call 530-477-4231.
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