Commission on Jail Violence report was released last month by the Los Angeles
County board of supervisors that was very damaging to Sheriff Lee Baca.
Among the findings were that the Sheriff Baca failed to
address long-standing problems of excessive and unnecessary force by jail
deputies against inmates. Also, Sheriff
Baca's senior leaders at the jail failed to monitor these problems, the report
Taxpayers in Los Angeles County will probably get saddled
with the financial burden to pay for lawyers to defend the lawsuits and for the
damages suffered by inmates.
Here, Ventura County
Sheriff Geoff Dean answers questions for the Court Reporter Blog about the
county jail, overcrowding and comments on the Los Angeles County jail report.
Q: How many inmates are currently housed at the
county jail? How many are felons?
A: The inmate population at the county jail(s)
fluctuates daily by as much as 50 inmates or more; this is based on a number of
variables, e.g., remands, fresh arrests, releases, etc. As of
October 10, 2012, the custody population was at 1,608 inmates. Of
those, approximately 1,186 were in custody on felony related charges. The
number of sentenced inmates with felony convictions was 347. The
remaining 839 were in custody on a variety of felony charges.
Q: What is the capacity of the county jail?
A: The "board rated capacity" of the Ventura
County Jail facilities (i.e., Pre-Trial, Todd Road, and East County) is
1,609. We begin applying early release when the number reaches 1,600
and believe that our maximum capacity of bed space with all Quads in overflow
would be around 1,850.
Q: Is there a problem with overcrowding at the
jail? If so, why?
A:Yes, there is a problem with overcrowding at
our jail facilities. Much of the overcrowding is a direct result of
AB 109 the "Public Safety Realignment Act" that Governor Brown signed into law
in 2011 and became effective on October 1, 2011. Realignment has
added around 250 inmates to our custody population, which has resulted in less
bed space. This has caused us to add bunk beds to the common areas
in our housing sections, which has reduced the total dayroom space available in
each section. More bodies in the sections coupled with reduced space
causes tension within the sections. As a result, we have seen an
increase in inmate-on-inmate assaults within our facility.
Q: What is being done to alleviate some of the
A: The Sheriff's Electronic Monitoring Unit
(EMU) was established in November of 2011 as a result of the Public Safety
Realignment Act of 2011. This is a Detention Services based program,
which assists with the management of the inmate population within our jail
facilities. Presently, the EMU consists of a senior deputy and a
deputy. They currently supervise 15-18 inmates throughout the
County, but the total number of inmates being monitored can fluctuate with the
overall inmate population.
In addition to the EMU,
the sheriff applied to the presiding judge of the superior court to
receive general authorization for a period of 30 days in order to release
sentenced inmates. This is commonly referred to asaccelerated
release (Penal Code §4024.1).
Q: Have you reviewed the Report of the Citizen's
Commission on Jail Violence that was released last month?
A: Not in it's entirety.
Q: How are you making sure that the problems
that were reported by the commission about Los Angeles County jail don't occur
at the jail in Ventura County?
A: The Commission's report was very
comprehensive and touched on a number of issues that had plagued the LASD jails
for years, e.g., span of control, leadership, lack of training, and a culture
that contributed to the excessive use of force.
Regarding use of force incidents within the
Ventura County Sheriff's Office Detention facilities; all use of force
incidents are reviewed immediately or in close proximity to when the incident
Our process has checks and balances whereby front-line
supervisors review any videos of the incident and approve all reports. The
Facility Captain then reviews the reports and/or video's and determines whether
or not the use of force is objectively reasonable and within Department
Next, the Facility Commander reviews the reports and/or
video of the incident. Anything that is deemed unreasonable and/or
outside of Sheriff's Department policy is sent to the Sheriff's Internal
Furthermore, most of the uses of force incidents are
supervised by front-line supervisors, i.e., either a Sr Deputy or a Sergeant
unless it involves an inmate assault on an officer, or inmate-on-inmate where
immediate intervention is necessary in order to care for the safety of the
inmate(s) or officer(s).
Weekly, the Detention Services Supervisors
provide training dealing with a wide range of topics including use of force
policy's and ethical decision making. They also reinforce our
Department Core Values which are often recorded in commendations and
Additionally, most use of force incidents are
video recorded, which allows for immediate training by supervisors on dealing
with inmate behavior and de-escalation techniques.
Q: How are complaints made by inmates alleging
the use of excessive force or other grievances handled by the Sheriff's jail
A: Complaints by inmates alleging the excessive
use of force or other types of grievances are handled by way of a grievance
If an inmate wants to allege any type of complaint, they
request a grievance, which is a written complaint about an issue regarding
their treatment while in our custody. Most grievances are handled at
the lowest level possible, i.e., the deputy level, however, those pertaining to
"citizen complaints" or force or discipline issues are directed to the Facility
If the grievance relates to a use of force allegation, the
Facility Captain will objectively look into the allegation and meet with the
Facility Commander in order to discuss the incident. If videos are
available they will be reviewed and a determination will be made as to whether
or not the allegation needs to be investigated by the Sheriff's Internal
Affairs Unit or handled in-house, i.e., within the jail(s).
Q: How many complaints were made by jail inmates
alleging the use of excessive force in 2009, 2010 and 2011?
A: In 2009 there were (3) excessive use of force
complaints that were sent to Internal Affairs. For 2010 there were
(5) allegations of excessive use of force, and in 2012 there were (4)
allegations. These investigations were conducted outside the Detention
Services Bureau by the Internal Affairs Unit.
Q: Does your agency keep track of the names of
Sheriff's deputies who get repeated complaints by inmates alleging the use of
A: There are a few different ways to respond to
this question: First, some use of force complaints require further
investigation outside Detention Services and are therefore investigated by our
Internal Affairs Unit. In those cases, regardless of who is making
the allegation, the investigations are retrievable by the deputy(s) name.
The complaints that remain within the Detention
Service Bureau that are investigated in-house and "sustained," e.g.,
inappropriate use of force, are kept in the deputy's file, but can also be
retrieved via our computer reporting system. The allegations that
are "exonerated or unfounded" can be tracked by the same reporting system using
the inmate's name.
Also, something to consider is that sometimes a
deputy's name may appear in repeated complaints/grievances within the Detention
Service Bureau; however, this is not an accurate representation of any wrong
doing on the deputy's part. For example, a deputy may work in an
assignment where he or she has more contact with inmates, e.g., on the booking
floor, and is obviously more prone to being assaulted by inmates.
his or her name may appear in more use of force incidents, but there is no
wrong doing on their part and this should be considered.
Q: Any final thoughts about this issue?
A: Realignment, along with over-crowding in our
jails is not going to go away. Over the last year we have seen an
increase in our jail population, which we believe has had a direct causation
with increased violence within our facilities. Inmate-on-inmate
violence has increased significantly over the last year.
reduction in day room space within the inmate sections causes more stress and
tension, which then causes the inmate(s) to act out and either assault another
inmate, or assault our staff. In addition, the inmate's
classification precludes us from making the best use of our bed space. For
example, we cannot house rival gang members in the same sections, and although
we have double bunks in our cells, certain inmates require that
they be housed by themselves, thus reducing our bed space.
and security are our primary concerns and we will continue to be committed
to provide for the safe, secure, and humane detention of those persons who are
lawfully conveyed to our care.
To review the entire Citizens' Commission on Jail Violence
report go to: