Wednesday, January 27, 2021     Volume: 21, Issue: 47
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Santa Maria Sun / News

The following article was posted on April 29th, 2020, in the Santa Maria Sun - Volume 21, Issue 9 [ Submit a Story ]
The following articles were printed from Santa Maria Sun [santamariasun.com] - Volume 21, Issue 9

Grand jury report highlights overcrowding in multiple county detention centers

By Zac Ezzone

During a review of 20 local detention facilities, the Santa Barbara County grand jury found that many of the issues associated with these sites could be solved with additional funding.

“The majority of the findings and recommendations stem from the lack of funding, funding that is essential to add staff where needed, funding to upgrade older and dangerous buildings, and funding to add new mission-critical technical systems for safer management,” a report the jury released on April 27 states.

Prior to the COVID-19 pandemic, the jury inspected county jails—including the Northern Branch Jail, which is under construction—and substations, probation facilities, court holding facilities, city jails and holding facilities, and the Santa Barbara Sobering Center.

According to the report, one of the more noteworthy findings was the overcrowding in the county’s Main Jail. On the date the jury conducted its inspection in February 2020, there were 890 inmates in the jail, which is supposed to maintain a daily population of 819. Additionally, during the inspection, there were 13 fewer custody deputies on duty than there should have been.

“The jail is understaffed, which results in higher safety risks to custodial deputies, costs associated with mandatory overtime, and heightened custody staff stress levels,” the report states. 

The Northern Branch Jail, which is being built to the west of Santa Maria, is supposed to alleviate the overcrowding in the Main Jail, however, construction has taken much longer than expected. According to the report, the jail was originally scheduled to open in September 2018, but is now slated for May 2020. Due to this delay, as well as other issues, the jail is also estimated to cost between $119 million and $121 million, which is about 7 to 9 percent higher than originally projected.

The jury also found that the holding facilities at the county courthouses in Santa Maria and Santa Barbara both struggle with overcrowding. In Santa Maria, this problem stems from a lack of coordination between court administration scheduling and the Sheriff’s Office. 

“Frequently, many inmates are transported to the court holding facility and never reach the courtroom,” the report states.

In Santa Barbara, the holding facility, which can officially hold 56 detainees, often has to accommodate as many as 80 prisoners at a time. The facility can house one person in each of its eight overflow cages that the jury refers to as “extremely small” and “inhumane.” The holding facility in Lompoc also has three of these cages staff use to separate inmates or for overflow purposes.

A representative from the Santa Barbara County Sheriff’s Office said the department has received the report and is working on its response. All agencies identified in the report have between 60 and 90 days to submit their responses to the grand jury. 










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