Scott Emblidge, Commission Counsel, and Jodie Smith, Attorney, provided the Jail Conditions presentation, including an overview of interview methodology, analytical considerations, and critical issues. Mr. Emblidge and Ms. Smith highlighted the critical issues as a lack of confidence in grievance channels; gaps between policy and practice; delays and deficiencies in medical care; poor hygiene and sanitation conditions; insufficient and inconsistent out-of-cell time; lack of transparency in classification and inmate discipline; differential treatment in jail compared to prison; understaffing; inappropriate accountability for staff misconduct; and, that inmates are unaware of Inmate Welfare Fund.
On order of Chairperson Cordell, the meeting recessed at 12:32 p.m.
The Commission reconvened at 12:42 p.m.
In response to inquiries by Commissioner Mukoyama, Mr. Emblidge indicated that post-interview retaliation concerns were not reported to Administration in 19 out of 20 alleged instances due to inmate desire to remain anonymous and avoid further retaliation.
In response to an inquiry by Commissioner Callender, Mr. Emblidge stated that interviews were performed in English and Spanish, and that there were no Vietnamese-language inmate interview requests; that inmate data was sorted by housing unit, and that demographic information was not applied to coding; that identifying specific shifts accused of retaliatory behavior was difficult due to inmate anonymity and inability to further investigate; and, that inmates did not provide details relating to pill cart medication mistakes.
In response to an inquiry by Commissioner Brunner, Mr. Emblidge described initial confusion by inmates and staff regarding who was performing the interviews, and stated that a large percentage of the inmates were aware of the Commission.
In response to inquiries by Commissioner Chavez, an interview associate noted that one interviewee expressed concerns that immigrant inmates were put in unfavorable custody situations; that a number of Spanish-speaking inmates felt no effort from staff to communicate with them; and, that staff were unable to communicate with Spanish-speaking inmates because they didn't speak Spanish, and often requested that inmates translate for one another.
In response to an inquiry by Commissioner Garnette, Mr. Emblidge clarified that inmates were provided a Blue Ribbon Commission business card for follow-up correspondence with a name, phone number, and email address, and were encouraged to contact an interview associate upon release without fear of retaliation.
In response to an inquiry by Commissioner Gaxiola, Ms. Smith stated that interview participation was generally the same across all housing units.
In response to an inquiry by Commissioner Weatherspoon, Mr. Emblidge indicated that accounts of officer cell phone usage were reported at all four facilities and that officers stated that cell phone use prevents overloading the switchboard.
In response to inquiries by Commissioner Price, Mr. Emblidge noted that the interview pool did include former employees; interviews were performed in Unit 8A; and, provided anecdotal data that some inmates noticed positive changes since the death of Michael Tyree.
In response to inquiries by Commissioner Lee, Mr. Emblidge advised of interviews with union leadership and complaints from officers regarding use of force. Ms. Smith advised that the State prison grievance process grants escalation, whereas the County jail system resolves grievances internally.
In response to inquiries by Commissioner Manley, Mr. Emblidge stated that interviewees were not categorized by mental health status, and advised that the perception of inmates is that many inmates with mental health conditions are improperly classified or housed. Mr. Emblidge further advised that inmates reported excessive use of force in a specific courthouse elevator, and described delays when providing inmates with psychiatric medication.
Chairperson Cordell indicated that due to time considerations, the Commission will continue discussion of Item No. 3-a at the March 5, 2016 meeting.