Report Of Lerdo Facility Finds Dorms In Extremely Poor Condition

The Grand Jury has released information regarding the Lerdo Jail Facility.

As stated, in many past Grand Jury reports, the Lerdo Male Minimum complex is outdated and in a state of deterioration and disrepair. The complex consists of 22 wooden barracks with 42 beds in each. In 2007, Assembly Bill 900 was passed. The stated purpose of the bill was to address the overcrowding and reduce recidivism rate of the state prison system. “The bill authorizes up to 40,000 new state prison beds, contingent upon significant program enhancements designed to reduce recidivism.” (Solorio (D) and Aghazarian (R), et al). The Kern County Sheriff Department Request for Proposal (RFP), dated March 2008, stated “The total eligible project cost is $137,190,986. Kern County is requesting $100 million (73%) in state funding and will provide $33.1 million (24%) in cash to match and $4 million (3%) in ‘soft match’.” The Kern County Sheriff’s Department Lerdo Facility has plans for the new facility and is awaiting the Board of Supervisors decision in February of this year.

PURPOSE OF INQUIRY:

The Law and Justice Committee (Committee) of the 2010-2011 Kern County Grand Jury visited the Kern County Sheriff’s Department Lerdo facilities (Lerdo) on January 11, 2011, pursuant to Penal Code §§919(b) and 925.

PROCESS:

The Committee met with a variety of Lieutenants and Sergeants. The Committee was taken on a tour of the facilities.

BACKGROUND:

Lerdo is located at 17635 Industrial Farm Road and is divided into four separate facilities: Pre-Trial, Maximum-Medium (Max/Med), Male Minimum and Female Minimum. At the time of the Committee’s visit there were 1,232 inmates in Pre-Trial, 374 inmates in Max/Med, 630 inmates in Male Minimum and 96 inmates in Female Minimum. The Max/Med facility was originally built in 1942 and the newest facility was added to the Kern County jail system in 1987.

FACTS:

A. The overall inmate population currently consists of the following racial background: 60% Hispanic; 30% Caucasian; 8% African American and 2% other. B. All landline telephone calls to and from inmates are recorded and kept on tape. The use of this surveillance allows Detention personnel to monitor inmate activity. C. Approximately 5% of all inmates held at the Lerdo facilities have severe mental disorders. Substance abuse such as methamphetamine is determined to be a major factor. D. The infirmary has a nursing staff 24 hours a day. A doctor is on site two days a week. E. The facility offers optional program “school” that is a 90 day program from 8 a.m. to 3 p.m. which focuses on helping inmates adjust back into society. F. 90% of all inmates have gang affiliation, which continues to increase. G. Approximately 80% of the population at the facility is awaiting sentencing. H. Drugs are a constant problem and “strip searches” are only done in specific cases. Visitations for minimum security inmates are held outside under a covered patio. Inmates are searched on their return to the facility; however, it appears that drugs are still being smuggled in. I. The older dorm structures were built in the 1940’s and have been poorly maintained over the years; however, due to the construction materials utilized, the buildings are very difficult to maintain. This is due to the heavy use of these buildings with each barrack filled to capacity by the prisoners.

FINDINGS:

F1. Both the Male and Female Minimum facility dorms are in extremely poor condition. Tiles are missing from walls and ceilings, a window is broken whose pieces have not been found, security fencing is not secure, etc. This results in a safety hazard for both prisoners and staff, as well as undesirable and possibly unsafe living conditions for the inmates. F2. The Delta Four Pod houses maximum security prisoners. The second level observation/control deck allows for physical observation only to the upper and lower cell decks. F3. Replacement of the minimum facilities requires the Board of Supervisors to provide approximately $37 million in order to obtain the $100 million in State funds which will only be available for a limited time.

COMMENTS:

Sheriff’s Department personnel were both professional and courteous in providing information and answering questions posed by the Committee during the visit to Lerdo.

RECOMMENDATIONS:

R1. Pending the outcome of AB900, rehabilitation/reconstruction of the facility is needed for the safety of both staff and inmates. The older dorm structures require replacement in order to meet state and local requirements for both safety and security. R2. Installation of Portholes in existing “D” pod windows would allow for the non-lethal use of pepper ball launchers to control inmate disturbances. This modification would require minimal cost. Inmate Welfare Funds could be used to offset the costs. R3. Each member of the Board of Supervisors and the Director of Public Health should visit the Lerdo Facility to obtain a complete picture of current minimum facility conditions.

Information Provided By The Grand Jury Of Kern County

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