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Main Jail

    Subject of Investigation

    The Sacramento County Main Jail is an eight-story twin tower facility located on I Street between 6th and 7th streets in downtown Sacramento. The jail is situated on a 2.17-acre parcel of land; the County of Sacramento owns the land and the buildings.

    Reason for Investigation

    California Penal Code section 919(b) requires the Grand Jury to inquire annually into the condition and management of the public prisons within the county. An essential element of these inquiries is an inspection tour of each facility.


    The Grand Jury conducted an inspection tour of the Main Jail. The Grand Jury reviewed each of the steps of the booking procedures on a weekend evening. Jurors also met with the jail commander to discuss matters of concern. In all instances, the jurors were fully briefed, provided with all information they requested and were allowed to visit every part of the jail. The administrative staff and deputies were knowledgeable and competent.

    The facility has a capacity of 2,432 inmates. The current average inmate population is 1,857. The jail houses mainly pre-trial inmates facing both state and federal charges.

    Grievance Procedure

    The grievance procedure for inmates contained in the Main Jail Inmate Handbook provides that complaints or suggestions should be given to the officer on the floor. If the complaint is not resolved to the satisfaction of the inmate, a grievance/suggestion form may be filed with the Housing Floor Officer. The only procedure for complaints that pertain to the conduct of officers regarding inmates requires that the inmate mail the complaint directly to the Jail Commander in the form of confidential mail. As we will explain, these procedures are inadequate and should be modified.

    The Sacramento County Jail consists of 2 towers, each with eight floors. Because of its large size, it is difficult for officers who supervise the facility to be aware of all activities that occur within the facility. The County has had problems in the past with officer misconduct within the jail, which includes a highly publicized incident related to the use of a prostraint chair in 1996 and 1997. Those particular incidents involved inmates who claimed deputies tortured them when they were strapped into the chair. Their claims were ultimately settled for the total sum of $775,000.00. The litigation involving misuse of the chair caused the sheriff to institute elaborate written procedures that must be followed whenever the chair is used. As a result of these procedures, the chair is seldom used.

    Complaints of alleged mistreatment of inmates by deputies caused additional video cameras to be installed in several areas including the booking area. The cameras have proved beneficial to deputies as in most instances the operation of these cameras results in the exoneration of jail personnel.

    Supervising personnel cannot be everywhere at once. Video cameras cover only a portion of the jail. Additional sources and techniques may be available to control the conduct of jail personnel and inmates. One such technique is a grievance that will provide complete anonymity and, thus encourage inmates to make complaints whenever they observe wrongful conduct by jail personnel or other inmates.

    One way to accomplish confidentiality of inmate complaints is to place complaint/suggestion receptacles in various sections of the jail. Keys to these receptacles would be kept in the sole possession of the jail commander. The complaints would be collected at appropriate intervals by an assistant to the jail commander and delivered immediately to the jail commander. Similar complaint procedures are utilized at other penal institutions in the County.

    Improved management of the jail would result if a grievance procedure is instituted which would provide assurance to inmates that any complaints they may have, whether legitimate or otherwise, would be anonymously delivered to the jail commander.

    Citizen Inquiries Regarding Booking

    The Grand Jury has become aware of alleged incidents of rude behavior of jail personnel in the handling of citizen inquiries relating to booking.

    Many citizens who have little or no knowledge of jail booking procedures find it necessary to call the jail when a relative or friend has been arrested. Many times arrested individuals are transported to the jail, booked but then no charges are brought and the individual is released after being in custody for a number of hours. When an individual is taken into custody whether charges are brought or not, a relative or friend may call the jail to inquire as to the status of the arrested individual. These relatives or friends, who in most instances have a legitimate interest in the status of the detained person, should be given timely and courteous treatment by jail personnel. These callers have legitimate concerns about the safety of the detainee (i.e. have they reached the jail without harm?), the length of the booking process, bail procedures, release times, etc.


    1. Every conceivable effort should be made to adopt procedures that will limit wrongful conduct by jail personnel or inmates that might ultimately require the County to pay damages to persons who suffer damages as a result of such misconduct. An improved inmate grievance procedure should be instituted that will provide complete anonymity to inmates and thus encourage them to make complaints whenever they observe wrongful conduct by jail personnel or other inmates.

    2. Training procedures for jail personnel should be reviewed and modified, if necessary, to insure that individuals inquiring about the status of an arrestee receive a timely response and courtesy.

    3. The Sheriff should develop a procedure to monitor the calls made by citizens to booking inquiring about the status of persons who have been arrested and booked.

    Response Required

    The Penal Code requires that responses to all of the recommendations contained in this Report be submitted to the Presiding Judge of the Sacramento Superior Court by September 30, 2000, from:

      · Sacramento County Sheriff's Department

1999/2000 Sacramento County Grand Jury - Final Report (Internet Version) June 30, 2000

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