Grand jury uncovers security flaws in Orange County jails


The Orange County Grand Jury (OCGJ) released a 34-page report highlighting various security flaws in California County jails, including escape risks for inmates and contraband trafficking.

Theo Lacy facility in the city of Orange was identified in the report as needing a security wall between the prison facility and a nearby vacant animal shelter.

“The absence of a boulder wall at this site presents a major security risk,” said the report, published on June 14.

In a statement sent to The Epoch Times, Orange County Sheriff’s Department (OCSD) spokeswoman Carrie Braun said she disagreed with the findings.

“The fence separating Theo Lacy’s facility from the vacant animal shelter is a double fence (basically two layers of fence) with razor wire over the two fences,” Braun said. “The area adjacent to the fence is a restricted area, used only by low-security detainees who are monitored and do not present a significant risk of escape. We are constantly in a state of security assessment and improvements to provide the most secure facilities possible. ”

The grand jury also said that during an October 2020 visit to Theo Lacy facility, it observed a potential security risk at the entrance to the reception, with the plexiglass separating the facility’s public and staff. of the sheriff’s department being too short.

“The main entrance is a hub for the public to enter the facility. OCSD staff are behind a desk with a two foot high plexiglass wall above the desk that could be easily drilled, ”the report said, recommending the installation of an eight foot piece of plexiglass. high.

Drug problems

The grand jury report also identified two ways that smuggling could be easily brought into both the Central Men’s Prison (CMJ) and the Admission and Release Center.

“A visit by the OCGJ to the CMJ in September 2020 revealed that the entrance area of ​​the prosecutor’s obligations presented significant security concerns,” the report said. “There were no CCTV cameras in the area, and no separation between lawyer and inmate, creating an opportunity for contraband to enter the facility.”

At the Admission and Release Center, the lack of trained OCSD staff means the building’s scanning device is not being used consistently to properly prevent contraband entering the facility, the facility said. grand jury.

To address these issues, the jury recommended installing security booths and video surveillance cameras at the entrance to the CMJ prosecutor’s duties and requiring a full body scan of incoming detainees to improve security and reduce the burden. smuggling.

In addition to security concerns, the jury also reportedly found a lack of mandatory COVID-19 tests for prison staff. He recommended mandatory testing for all prison staff.

Praise zones

Despite the problems described in the report, the grand jury said it had found all of the county’s prisons to be “acceptable and generally meet state and federal standards.”

The report also commended the OCSD for its full cooperation with the grand jury on each visit and for allowing it access to all requested areas.

He also recognized the ministry for creating the Military Veterans Housing Unit (HUMV), a space where veterans receive special services and programs that help regain special skills for eventual reintegration into the community.

Additionally, the report highlighted the positive work done by the ministry to establish the Office of Behavioral Health to address mental health issues in the prison system, as well as Module K for inmates with mental health issues.

Responding to the grand jury’s findings and recommendations, Braun said the described construction projects are delayed due to lack of funding, but are in line with Sheriff Don Barnes’ plans.

“The grand jury report provides a factual account of the complex work and tremendous dedication of the custodial and health staff working in the Orange County jail system,” she said. We are delighted that the grand jury has recognized Sheriff Barnes’ proactive efforts to deal with COVID-19. Additionally, the grand jury commended efforts to address the behavioral health needs of inmates in custody. “


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