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Matthew Hedger
06/06/2014 1:29 PM

By Matthew Hedger

mhedger@ledger-dispatch.com

An impending deadline to zero in on a site to build a new jail facility using $22.7 million in conditional AB900 money first awarded to the county in 2008 brought Amador Sheriff Martin Ryan to the podium at a recent Board of Supervisors meeting. Ryan provided an overview of current conditions at the jail, and impacts created by Assembly Bill 109, and the “realignment” system it imposed.

Ryan told supervisors the current jail facility was built in 1984 and had an expected 20-year lifespan.

“We are now ten years past that lifespan,” he said, adding that it was only ever intended to house inmates sentenced up to one year.

“A lot of things have changed in that period of time,” he said. “A lot of requirements the state has imposed upon jails have resulted in the situation we find ourselves in today.”

Ryan said his staff tracked 62 maintenance requests for the jail, from Jan. 27 through May 27, and said its physical structure poses a dilemma for some of the more sensitive individuals his deputies and staff often have to deal with — the mentally ill.

“Currently, we don’t have any facilities for those,” he said, “so they’re placed in sobering cells, which is contrary to state regulations. However, we’re faced with a dilemma. Seriously mentally ill with serious charges pending against them — we can’t find them a bed elsewhere. There is no place that’s available, and we end up housing them, in our facility, which creates issues not only for them, but for staff, as well.”

The Amador County Jail as it exists today has a 76-bed capacity — 65 for males and 11 for females, but Ryan said an ever-increasing need for more beds, and a place to provide programs for inmates is a formidable challenge.

“Our average daily population in 2013 stood at 90,” explained Ryan. “We’ve never had any real … space to provide the programs that we feel are necessary to hopefully meet and rehabilitate some of the individuals we see on a regular basis.” Ryan said his staff has been using hallways, a library and visitation areas to provide drug and alcohol counseling, positive parenting and high school diploma programs, as well as Bible study and Alcoholics Anonymous meetings — in places never intended to be used for such purposes

Ryan said he has also implemented measures in order to reduce the numbers of inmates who arrive at the facility on a daily basis.

“One is a probation pretrial risk assessment,” he said. “Everyday, probation comes over, takes a look at who we’ve incarcerated the evening before to see if there’s anybody who, based upon the risk assessment, we can release.

“That is not an enviable situation to be in when you have to do that, and we’re also finding that fewer and fewer of the people that we’re encountering actually meet the lower level of risk assessment (where) we can afford to put them out.”

Ryan told the board he also has home electronic monitoring programs and a Sheriff’s Parole policy, and has transferred some inmates out of the county in an effort to alleviate overcrowding at the jail.

“However, that’s a temporary one,” he said, “and it’s balanced by the fact that we only have so many sentenced inmates in our facility. We run about 70 percent. unsentenced, pretrial inmates So, the 30 percent that are left, those are the ones we outsource because we don’t run into issues with trial scheduling, appointments with their attorneys and things of that nature. It’s just a cleaner situation for us.”

In April 2011, the California Legislature and Governor Jerry Brown passed sweeping public safety legislation — AB 109 — that effectively shifted responsibility for certain populations of offenders from the state to the counties. AB 109 established the California Public Safety Realignment Act of 2011 and allowed for current, non-violent, non-serious and non-sex offenders, referred to by many jailers as non, non nons, who, after they are released from a California State prison, are sent to be supervised at the local county level. Instead of reporting to state parole officers, these offenders report to local county probation officers.

Ryan said since the October 2011 rollout of the program, the impacts upon the Amador Jail facility have increased exponentially.

“I went back and I took a look at jail incidents for the whole calendar year of 2011 versus 2012,” Ryan told the board, “and this is where we stand: Incidence of contraband found in the jail was up 23 percent. Fights within the jail were up 30 percent. Use of force by my staff is up 31 percent. The rules violations by inmates are up 19 percent.”

In addition, Ryan said the new sentencing guidelines under AB109 are also having an impact.

“In 2013,” he recalled, “we had an inmate sentenced to five years and four months to county jail. Now, granted, under the new rules, they do a half time in there, but … you can imagine spending two-and-a-half years-plus in that facility and what it does to your health and your mental health.”

Ryan said one inmate was sent to Amador Jail this year with a sentence of seven years. “Fortunately, five of those were put out on supervised supervision, as part of that sentence, so we’re not going to see the full seven,” he said.

Statewide, in April, 2014, the State Sheriff’s Association reported receiving 1,635 inmates with sentences of between five and ten years, up from 1,109 last year.

Also noted in April were 124 sentences of over ten years, up from 44 last year.

The longest sentence to date in the state is 42 years, to an inmate now serving time in the Los Angeles County Jail.

“We are seeing that trend,” said Ryan. “It is increasing and growing. The types of crimes that are getting these larger sentences are the types of crimes we have in Amador County — narcotics-related offenses, property crimes. Those that have been realigned and are now called “non, non, non, non-violent, non-serious, non-sexual offenses, those sentences are coming to the Amador County Jail.”

Ryan said the state’s original estimates as to the number of inmates the jail could receive because of realignment were lower than what is being realized.

“They measured it from October of 2011 through that same period in 2013, and … found that we reached 87 percent of the population that they thought we’d get from new local felony

Copyright © 2014 Amador Ledger Dispatch
Loula Lou
06/19/2014 7:44 AM
There is something much deeper at issue in the Amador County Jail than merely the lack of appropriate building to house those CITIZENS who are incarcerated there. My developmentally disabled son is now dead as a direct result of having been in their custody, harassment by officers while in custody and harassment by officers while doing absolutely nothing on the street. I am an expert in research and have yet to find any mention of my sob's arrest or death in any newspaper or online medium, nor have I found mention of a death the week prior. Officers in the jail have a history of beating non-compliant inmates, which they have taunted both before and after their abuse, causing grave bodily injuries and using them as "examples" for other inmates of the consequences of dissent. shame! shame! This is not Guantanamo Bay and I will not idly sit by and allow criminals with badges to continue to perpetrate crimes on the accused who end up dead in custody less than 24 hours after arrival without having ever had the opportunity to defend their charges in a court of law. Furthermore, shame on this newspaper, for not investigating and reporting these atrocities as any newspaper worth it's salt would be doing! Shame! Shame!

I've been told Amador County has four separate law enforcement agencies operating in the county. I can't believe the crime rate supports this excessive number of agencies who seem to be so bored they have nothing better to do than harass youth attempting to get to school. I haven't found so much as a Boys and Girls Club to support the young people in the community....perhaps the money would be better spent by eliminating some of the big dicks with little pricks and establishing positive institutions for the wholesome development of the minds and bodies of the youth and young adults in the community. I'm just as disgusted and angry by the circumstances surrounding the suspicious death of my 21 year old developmentally disabled son as I am grief-stricken. Every life has a value given to its soul by our Creator and supposedly protected by the Bill of Rights and the Constitution of the United States of America, paid for in blood. I lost my son on May 27, 2014. nearly lost my brother in the same facility in 2008. Will your child be next?
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