Sacramento County Main Jail
On July 30, 1998, the 1998-1999 Sacramento County Grand Jury toured the Sacramento County Main Jail, located at 651 I St. in Sacramento.
This facility, completed in 1989, is designed to house offenders awaiting trial. There are 1,252 cells with a current maximum capacity of 1,924 inmates. A recent legal decision regarding the "misdemeanor jail" concept now provides the Sacramento County Sheriff's Department with the authority to increase that total to 2,432 through "double bunking." The Department will now pursue outstanding misdemeanor arrest warrants and double-bunk these arrestees with other inmates in selected cells. The Jail can accommodate 508 double bunkings, 278 of which will be used for the misdemeanor jail. The Grand Jury was informed by Sheriff's Department officials that this will require 30 more deputies, six records staff, four supervisors and a cook.
The Jail is usually at maximum capacity. At the time of the Grand Jury's tour the majority of inmates (88 percent) were in custody for felonies. The average inmate population is approximately 84 percent male and 16 percent female. The average stay is five days. The number of female inmates continues to increase, although space to house them is limited. Bookings average 151 per day. Of this number, 37 percent are released within 24 hours, either because they have posted bail or are released on their own recognizance. The Grand Jury learned that some misdemeanants were being released early due to overcrowding; this practice may be obviated through the misdemeanor jail concept.
The Grand Jury observed that the Jail's infirmary appeared to pose safety and security concerns. After further review, the Grand Jury learned that in the last three years, no significant security violations had occurred in this area because of the vigilance of the officers.
The Grand Jury observed that staffing for the Jail's critical Central Control function was minimal. Upon further discussion with the Sheriff's Department, the Grand Jury was assured that this staffing pattern is adequate. Ten dispatchers operate the Jail's Central Control room, two or three at a time, 24 hours a day. The Grand Jury also learned that these positions will be phased out of the current staffing plan and replaced by records officers, who will have more assignment flexibility. The Grand Jury was assured by Jail management that all computer software in the facility is Year 2000-compliant, according to the County Office of Communications and Information Technology.
The Grand Jury, concerned about the possible spread of infectious diseases, learned that inmates in custody for more than five days are tested for tuberculosis and, if infected, are isolated on the medical floor in special cells and treated until no longer infectious. HIV testing is conducted upon court order, medical doctors' orders or inmate request, but HIV-positive inmates are not required to be segregated. Inmates requiring nonemergency care are bused, under guard, to San Joaquin General Hospital rather than to the closer University of California, Davis Medical Center because it costs Sacramento County less to do so. (Department officials stated that since implementing this change in March 1998, approximately $300,000 has been saved.) Inmates requiring immediate care are routed to closer facilities within the Sacramento area.
The Grand Jury observed that the Jail is showing noticeable wear and tear and needs attention given to general cleanliness, maintenance and repair. Examples include dirty bathrooms, worn carpeting and chipped paint in the public areas.
Findings and Recommendations
Finding #1: The Grand Jury found that the Jail's kitchen floors area are slippery and present a safety risk for prisoners and staff. In follow-up discussions with Jail management, the Grand Jury was told of a plan to have kitchen floors "etched" to provide a safer surface. The Grand Jury was informed that the kitchen is inspected annually by the California Medical Association and the Sacramento County Environmental Management Department, and every two years by the state Department of Corrections.
Recommendation #1: The Grand Jury recommends that the Department proceed with the plan to etch the kitchen floor, and provide verification that the work has been done.
Finding #2: The Grand Jury found that the physical layout and the officer staffing within the kitchen presents a security risk. There are blind spots in the kitchen in which inmates cannot be observed by officers.
Recommendation #2: The Grand Jury recommends that steps be taken to improve kitchen security, such as installing mirrors and security cameras and providing additional staff.
A Response is Required
The California Penal Code requires both the Sacramento County Board of Supervisors and the Sacramento County Sheriff's Department to respond in writing to the Grand Jury's recommendations contained in this report, and to submit their responses to the presiding judge of the Sacramento Superior Court by September 30, 1999.