Carson Creek Boys Ranch
On August 17, 1998, 1998-1999 Sacramento County Grand Jury toured the Carson Creek Boys Ranch, operated by the Sacramento County Probation Department and located at 14049 Boys Ranch Road in Sloughhouse.
Carson Creek Boys Ranch (the Ranch) is located between Highways 50 and 16 in a remote rural setting. It was not designed to be a secure incarceration facility; there are no walls, fences or other restrictive barriers. Now 30 years old, it is operating at capacity, housing approximately 100 wards ages 13 to 18. The average stay is 39 days. The Grand Jury learned that in fiscal year 1997-1998, 72 percent of 341 wards successfully completed their terms at the Ranch. At the time of the Grand Jury's visit the Ranch was staffed by 13 probation officers, eight probation assistants and one senior deputy.
The Ranch provides Sacramento County Juvenile Court wards with basic clothing, dormitory beds and lockers, group meals, an array of counseling services, and onsite instruction by certificated teachers. The Ranch offers both a work program and a school program. Classes are taught in English, math, science, social studies/history and wood shop. Wards may pursue a General Education Development (GED) certificate. Supervised swimming, basketball, competitive softball, weightlifting, table tennis and pool playing are the wards' physical recreation. When a ward has demonstrated cooperation, he may be allowed 24- to 48-hour furloughs.
The Grand Jury learned that the 1998-1999 budget for the Ranch's operations is $2.6 million, which the Ranch supplements with both in-kind and supply donations from private groups. At the time of the Grand Jury's visit, the cost of maintaining one ward was approximately $33,000 per year. (Some of these funds are recovered from a ward's family, based upon ability to pay.) Selected older wards work for the County's Public Works Agency. These work crews are transported and supervised by Ranch officers. Wards earn about $20 per day. Their earnings are used for victim restitution payments.
The Grand Jury learned that the Ranch has policies for medical care and delivering medication. Prescription drugs are sent from Sacramento County Juvenile Hall to the Ranch for wards who need them. The drugs are delivered and logged by a deputy probation officer. The log is checked at the end of each working shift by a supervisor. Two nurses come to the Ranch each Tuesday, Wednesday and Friday to monitor wards with medical problems. For health reasons, wards at Juvenile Hall who are found to have communicable diseases are not sent to the Ranch.
The Grand Jury observed that current staff, like current ward housing, is stretched to the limit. More officers may be needed to supervise wards. This is especially important to help prevent, or search for, runaways.
Findings and Recommendations
Finding #1: The Grand Jury found that, in this rural location, flies were prevalent. The Grand Jury was assured steps are being taken in concert with the Sacramento County Public Health Department to control them.
Subsequently, the Grand Jury learned that fly fans -- air blowers designed to keep flies out of specific areas -- are being installed in the kitchen and dining areas.
Recommendation #1: The Grand Jury recommends that the Boys Ranch staff continue to be diligent about fly control and requests that the staff provide verification that fly fans have been installed in all appropriate areas.
Finding #2: The Grand Jury was informed that in fiscal year 1997-1998, approximately 11 percent of the Ranch's wards escaped. Although the majority of runaways are apprehended, the Grand Jury finds this unacceptable.
The Grand Jury learned that in 1995 Ranch management, through the Sacramento County Probation Department, requested funds from the Sacramento County Board of Supervisors to erect a 50-bed, locked facility with a fence around it to house potential runaways. This request was not approved. In its 1997-1998 budget request, Ranch management requested funds for door alarms, lighting and increased staff. This request was also denied.
Recommendation #2: The Grand Jury supports Ranch management concerns about runaway wards and recommends that it continue to pursue added funds to enhance security.
Further -- recognizing that the decision about which wards are sent to the Ranch is made elsewhere -- the Grand Jury recommends that Ranch staff closely review the records of incoming youth to identify wards it believes to be inappropriately classified to be housed at the Ranch.