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County needs new jail, says Civil Grand Jury
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For two decades, the Stanislaus County Main Jail has been deteriorating and slowly developing into a hazardous environment for everyone housed there. On Wednesday, the Stanislaus County Civil Grand Jury recommended a new jail be built after their mandated inspection of the facility.

“The Civil Grand Jury concludes that the Stanislaus County Main Jail facility is old and rundown and needs to be replaced,” reads the findings.

The report also mentions a “small and cramped” medical clinic area, a dismantled law library, a humidity issue in the jail and a video monitoring/recording system that is outdated in the main jail.

In June 2007, the sheriff’s department put together a master plan for a new jail facility that they presented to the Stanislaus County Board of Supervisors, said Stanislaus County Sheriff Adam Christianson. The plan focused on expansion and mentioned the need for more maximum security beds.

Developing new facilities has already been in the works with the creation of the master plan but with the down economy and a lack of funding, turning the master plan into a reality has been a difficult task.

The Civil Grand Jury also inspected the Stanislaus County Safety Center, Stanislaus County Juvenile Detention Center and the Stanislaus County Honor Farm.

The Civil Grand Jury conducted these inspections to be complaint with the California Penal Code, which requires the body to “inquire into the condition and management of the public prisons within the county.”

One common theme in all of the inspections was an outdated video monitoring/recording system in all four facilities. The Civil Grand Jury recommended a video monitoring/recording system that is capable of recording continuously in the four facilities that were inspected.

The Public Safety Center was found to have a handful of adequate and beneficial systems in place for their inmates.

The grand jury found the center to be a clean facility with an adequate inmate grievance procedure, medical staff with caring attitudes and beneficial annual mental health training, according to the report. The center’s use of closed circuit television for arraignments was also found as a cost-saving policy and a safety benefit as it “keeps more deputies available for security purposes at the Public Safety Center.”

Recommendations for the center included keeping the current level of staff or increasing the level of staff, maintaining the annual mental health training and upgrading the video monitoring/recording system.

The Civil Grand Jury was concerned with the staffing levels at the Probation Department’s Juvenile Facility. The report found that future reductions in staffing could result in early releases of minors due to staff limitations with possible furlough days.

The Civil Grand Jury found the juvenile facility to be well-maintained and orderly with clean and adequate kitchen and dining area facilities, according to the report. Recommendations to keep the current staffing level or increasing the current staffing level along with upgrading the video monitoring/recording system were made.

The biggest worries for the Stanislaus County Honor Farm center around the closing of the facility or reduction in inmates housed at the honor farm that could cause “negative ripple effects on the community at large,” and the reduction of medical services that could result “in a failure to timely treat emergent injuries” due to the remote location of the farm, according to the report.

Recommendations for the farm included keeping it fully staffed and all the barracks open to prevent arrestees from being released back into the general population. The grand jury expressed concern over lack of manpower to provide road-work crews to the Department of Public Works, the Department of Environmental Resources and the City of Modesto, which all come from honor farm inmates. The grand jury also recommended keeping the medical service on a 24 hour per day, seven days a week basis and upgrading the video monitoring/recording system.

All four of the inspections require a response from the Stanislaus County Board of Supervisors and all but one require a response from the Stanislaus County Sheriff’s Department as well. The Juvenile Facility is the only one that requires a response from the Board of Supervisors and the Stanislaus County Probation Department.

To contact Maegan Martens, e-mail or call 634-9141 ext. 2015.