Monterey County jail inspections show full compliance
SALINAS – In an about-face from prior state inspections of the Monterey County Jail and prisoner holding facilities, state inspectors in a recently released report found no issues of noncompliance with state and federal standards.
The inspections took place in mid-July and covered the main county jail and the holding facilities at the Salinas, King City and Monterey branches of the county Superior Court, as well as Marina Traffic Court.
The inspections were conducted by the California Board of State and Community Corrections or BSCC, and were based on standards of care outlined in state regulations called Minimum Standards for Local Detention Facilities as well as the federal Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention Act.
Officials with the Monterey County Sheriff’s Office said the inspectors zeroed in on standards of operations and inmate care, and that the results were “exceedingly positive.”
On Wednesday Monterey County Sheriff Tina Nieto said that while she is the leader in the administration, she has surrounded herself with the kind of professionals who provide accountability and operational integrity to the facilities.
“This is a complete 180 from the previous reporting by the BSCC and the (federal juvenile justice act) during the previous administration,” she said. “The women and men of the Monterey County Sheriff’s Office and my entire executive management team are committed to continuous improvement and inmate care.
“From my office down, we operate with integrity and transparency and take seriously the public trust imparted to our office,” she said.
In contrast to the current inspection results, in late 2021 and early 2022 under the administration of former Sheriff Steve Bernal, the main jail inspection uncovered a number of items that were not in compliance with state and federal standards.
For example, on the date of inspection, two of the safety cells located in the booking area were found to have torn, tattered and deteriorating padding. Safety cells are used for inmates who have demonstrated they are a danger to themselves or others. Also, one safety cell was being used to house an inmate “absent suicidal ideations.”
On reinspection by the state, those noncompliant issues were corrected. Inspections are conducted every two years.
On its webpage, the BSCC is described itself as an independent agency that “provides leadership to the adult and juvenile criminal justice systems.” In addition to inspections, the agency provides expertise on Public Safety Realignment issues. Realignment is the 2011 legislative action that moves nonserious, nonviolent and nonsexual offenders to county jails instead of state prisons, as a means of reducing prison populations. The BSCC also provides technical assistance administers public safety-related grant funding.
Following the 2023 inspection, the BSCC held a briefing department staff where inspectors provided technical assistance and recommended additional enhancements to facility operations.