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SLO County Grand jury report says county jail still has issues

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The SLO County grand jury released a report June 9 concluding that everything looks good in local jail and juvenile facilities—except for the ongoing contraband problem, inmate violence, and overcrowding as a result of the state’s realignment.

The report states, “The grand jury found all places of incarceration to be well managed providing for both the health and safety of inmates and the safety of all personnel.”

However, the report also notes “an increase in assaults, violence, and gang politics,” adding that inmates are increasingly successful at smuggling contraband into the county jail.

The grand jury report traced these issues back to AB 109, the 2011 prison realignment bill, which moved prisoners convicted of “non-serious, non-violent, and non-sex-related” crimes from state prisons into local jails. State voters then passed Proposition 47 in 2014, which redefined several felony and “wobbler” crimes (a wobbler can be either a misdemeanor or felony) as misdemeanors. The combined result of these two laws was an increase in local jail populations as well as an increase in the length inmates stay at local jails.

The report indicated that the types of contraband entering jail hasn’t changed, although it didn’t specify the length of time. What has changed, according to the report, is “the expertise with which contraband is smuggled into the facility and the success rate has gone up due to the sophistication of the inmates.”

A 2014 grand jury report also said that contraband smuggling was an ongoing issue at that time, saying “contraband continues to be a problem in the jail. Staff thoroughly searches every inmate before he/she is placed in the general population.” In 2014, the jail acquired a drug-sniffing dog to perform random searches, according to that report, and the jail also acquired a body scanner similar to ones used at airports, according to the Sheriff’s Office Public Information Officer Tony Cipolla.

In response to the contraband smuggling, Cipolla said that the department hired eight new positions at the jail and have installed cameras.

The grand jury’s finding of increased inmate-on-inmate violence was also related to realignment. They grand jury report didn’t address any of the recent inmate deaths which occurred while inmates were in police custody.

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