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Santa Cruz Indymedia | Government & Elections | Health, Housing, and Public Services | Police State and Prisons
Santa Cruz Grand Jury Releases Reports on Jail Deaths and Juvenile Hall Meals
The 2013-2014 Santa Cruz County Grand Jury released two reports in May: "Five Deaths in Santa Cruz: An Investigation of In-Custody Deaths," and "The Juvenile Hall Meal Preparation Program: Good Food Equals Love, Concern, and Support".
"Five Deaths in Santa Cruz: An Investigation of In-Custody Deaths" examines the deaths of five inmates in the Santa Cruz County Jail that occurred between August 2012 and July 2013. Four of these deaths occurred after the private California Forensic Medical Group (CFMG) had assumed medical responsibility for the jail.
The Grand Jury Report states:
"The Grand Jury learned that the health of inmates entering the Main Jail was often poor due to their existing medical and mental health conditions, such as chronic drug or alcohol abuse. All of the individuals who died in custody had medical problems, mental health problems, or both. In this high pressure environment, the process for classifying, monitoring, and treating high risk individuals needs to be carefully formulated and executed. People with the correct training and expertise must be active participants at each step in the process. In all of the in-custody death cases, we identified failures at critical points in the process. In some instances, individuals were incorrectly classified or not properly monitored. In others, inadequate treatments were applied."
"Steps are now being taken at the Main Jail to improve inmate safety. New leadership is in place in all areas directly involved in inmate care, including the Corrections Bureau, CFMG, and CIT. New staff members have been hired, and protocols have been reviewed and upgraded. The different organizations now report a higher degree of cooperation with one another and an improved team focus. Corrections Bureau and CIT staff speak highly of the professionalism of CFMG. Yet, in spite of these improvements, we believe additional changes in protocols and procedures are needed for the protection of the mental and physical health of inmates."
The report "The Juvenile Hall Meal Preparation Program: Good Food Equals Love, Concern, and Support" was undertaken by the Grand Jury in response to the Seheriff's Department's decision to study the possibility of moving its main jail kitchen to the Rountree site in Watsonville.
The Grand Jury found that the move would detrimentally affect the quality of the food:
"The Grand Jury finds that the cooks at the Juvenile Hall are doing a good job in providing fresh, nutritious, family style meals to the residents and staff. This creates healthier, happier residents, who in turn perform at a higher academic level and are less prone to engage in violent or disruptive behaviors. Family style meals are also an important time for staff to interact with and mentor the juvenile residents."
"In our opinion, it is vital that Santa Cruz County continue to support the meal preparation program at the Juvenile Hall."