Saturday, October 20 , 2018, 3:49 pm | Fair 85º


Coroner’s Bureau, Main Jail Facilities Found Lacking Again by Santa Barbara Grand Jury

In this year’s inspection of Santa Barbara County detention facilities, the civil grand jury again labeled the Main Jail overcrowded and called the Coroner’s Bureau facilities “dismal and unhealthy.”

Previous issues identified by grand jury reports were unresolved, and there are new areas identified as needing improvement, including the Police Department and court holding facility in Lompoc.

The jail at 4434 Calle Real is overcrowded, with many inmates sleeping on plastic “boats” on the ground, and has insufficient video monitoring, the report said.

There’s no medical dorm in the jail, but the South Dorm used for inmates with medical issues or mobility limitations was “generally unkempt,” with bedding on the floor when the jury visited, according to the report.

The grand jury noted the recruitment challenges for the Sheriff's Department – especially with custody deputies, which led to mandatory overtime – and the serious need for repairs and renovations at the jail.

The Coroner’s Bureau facility at 66 S. San Antonio Road, built with inmate labor in the 1980s, got a scathing review in a past grand jury report, and the department hasn’t implemented all of the previous recommendations.

Ventilation in the autopsy room – which handles about 120 post-mortem exams a year – is still inadequate.

“The jury learned that the stench can be so bad that employees have had to stand in the parking lot in order to continue working,” the jury wrote.

There’s also no transition room for staff to remove protective clothing and clean up, so they do it outside the building.

Sheriff’s Department personnel told the grand jury that planning for a new Coroner’s Bureau facility was a capital improvement project priority.

The Lompoc city jail is clean and well-kept, while the Police Department’s building needs a serious upgrade or replacement, according to the report.

The department has outgrown the facility, with dispatch workstations so close to each other they can hear conversations, and closets converted into offices.

Other holding cell facilities, including at city police department headquarters and sheriff’s department substations, had fewer marks against them.

The Santa Barbara Superior Court holding facility has long been called inadequate, with not enough space and the requirement to transport restrained inmates on foot across Figueroa Street – right next to tour bus parking and off-loading areas – from the holding area to courtrooms.

It creates a safety and security problem that the court system hopes to fix with a planned new criminal courthouse building on Figueroa Street.

Probation facilities, including juvenile halls, got a good review from the grand jury.

Guadalupe doesn’t have holding cells, instead using a “secured bench” to restrain people while they’re being booked, according to the report.

People are then taken to the Santa Maria sheriff’s substation or straight to the Santa Barbara Main Jail, a much longer transport process. North County law enforcement agencies argue the substation jail and the new Northern Branch Jail are necessary to cut down on that transport time. 

“It was reported to the jury that on the day before its visit, the turnaround time to take an arrestee to the jail took nine hours due to the travel distance and the time it took to obtain medical clearances. When the Northern Branch Jail is built, it will alleviate the extended turnaround time problem,” the jury wrote.

Noozhawk managing editor Giana Magnoli can be reached at .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address). Follow Noozhawk on Twitter: @noozhawk, @NoozhawkNews and @NoozhawkBiz. Connect with Noozhawk on Facebook.

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