Deschutes County grand jurors inspected the county jail and other corrections facilities, as state law requires, and found them run well but facing special challenges in mental health issues and in need of expanding educational and substance abuse treatment programs.
The grand jurors’ observations, released Friday by the DA's Office, also found the 90-bed Juvenile Detention Center is “woefully under-utilized,” with only eight youth in detention at the time of the December inspection. Since then, county leaders have moved toward using that space to relieve crowding at the jail and to find a new space for juveniles to be held.
Here’s the full 5-page report and recommendations:
GRAND JURY CORRECTIONAL INSPECTION
A Deschutes County Grand Jury was convened in December 2011, pursuant to ORS 132.440 to inquire into the condition and management of the adult and juvenile correctional facilities in Deschutes County. The grand jurors inspected each of the facilities currently in operation: The Deschutes County Jail, Work Center and the Juvenile Detention Facility.
During the course of their inspection, the grand jurors heard from the following individuals:
Deschutes County Circuit Court Presiding Judge Alta J. Brady
Sheriff Larry Blanton
Deschutes County Sheriff’s Office Captain Jones
Deschutes County Sheriff’s Office Lt. Gill
Deschutes County Sheriff’s Office Sgt. Lutz
Deschutes County Sheriff’s Office Deputy Byers
Juvenile Detention Center Program Manager Chuck Puck
Juvenile Detention Center Supervisor Shawn Nielsen
Deschutes County Jail
The current maximum capacity for the Deschutes County Jail is 228 inmates. However, a number of factors consistently militate against operating at maximum capacity. Among those factors are the following: female inmates must be physically segregated from male inmates; inmates with mental health or medical problems need to be segregated or provided more space than healthy inmates; co-defendants must be housed apart from one another; and inmates with behavioral problems often require segregation or more space.
The jail has an $8,000,000 annual budget, approximately $1,000,000 of which is devoted to the behavioral modification and educational programs provided to inmates in an effort to enhance an inmate’s ability to re-enter the community as a productive and law-abiding citizen upon release.
The Deschutes County Sheriff’s Office is one of a handful in our state that is 100% accredited by the Oregon Accreditation Alliance in both the Patrol Division and the Jail.
Deschutes County Sheriff’s Office Captain Jones and Lieutenant Gill led the inspection of the jail, which began in the sally port, the secure and highly controlled entryway where persons under arrest are brought into the jail. The grand jurors were impressed with the quality and security of the sally port and the procedures jail staff employ to make certain that no weapons or contraband enter the jail. The grand jury learned that as part of a statewide cooperative agreement with all Sheriff's Offices, our sally port facility is used as the central hub east of the mountains for prisoner exchanges and as a secure rest facility for law enforcement officers transporting prisoners.
From the sally port, grand jurors inspected the pre-booking area and were given detailed information regarding the procedures that jail staff and arresting officer(s) employ in the pre-booking area. Specific attention was devoted to procedures employed for those arrested for driving under the influence of intoxicants and grand jurors had the opportunity to examine the intoxilyzer and interview rooms. The grand jurors were also thoroughly briefed on the procedures jail staff follow to assess whether an arrested person is medically and mentally fit to be incarcerated in the jail. All jail staff have received professional training to identify common medical and mental health issues and are required to complete a detailed medical and mental health questionnaire prior to accepting custody of an arrestee.
The next point of inspection was the holding area in which there are a total of four rooms: one for holding suicidal or female inmates, one for cooperative male inmates, one for inmates displaying uncooperative behavior and one which is used as needed when access to a phone inside the room is required. The holding area is used for those about to enter the jail as well as inmates awaiting imminent release from the jail. Inmates are allowed to call an attorney at any time, are allowed one free phone call and as many collect phone calls as they request.
The grand jurors also learned about jail policies regarding family visitation. Generally, jail staff encourages and facilitates communication between inmates and family members because it has proven to be a good behavioral management tool and increases the likelihood that the inmate will be a productive member of the community upon release. Additionally, jail staff discussed procedures in place to minimize inmate suicide noting that there were no suicides in the jail during 2011.
Next the grand jurors inspected the food preparation area, recreation area and the laundry and shower facilities. The kitchen appeared to be very clean and well-organized. Staff explained that inmates on good behavior work in the kitchen preparing meals for fellow inmates and staff. There are two small recreation areas that have both an indoor and outdoor area. Each has a single pull-up bar mounted to the wall and a toilet. Grand jurors were impressed that tax payer money was not wasted on unnecessary exercise equipment. Jail staff explained that exercise equipment was eliminated as a cost-saving measure because inmates would consistently injure themselves and damage the equipment. The laundry and shower facilities were clean and well-maintained.
The grand jurors then spent some time in the “law library”: a room with one computer with access to legal resources. Jail staff explained that this room is also used for mental health assessments as needed.