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Community Review Commission - what's that again?

Shout out to our regular newsletter contributors, and former SJPC interns, Sarah Rabanales and Jacob Benitez for all their work on this piece!

The Community Review Commission (CRC) came together on August 9th in order to present their first annual update to the Sacramento Board of Supervisors since being created earlier this year.

Real quick - what IS the CRC?

Screenshot below pulled from the CRC's County page

Meeting agendas, materials, and summaries can be found at this link.

So basically the CRC exists *hypothetically* as a mechanism to help hold the Sacramento County Sheriff's Department (SSO) accountable for the wellbeing of their community.

The presentation was introduced by the Deputy County Executive for the Public Safety and Justice Department of Sacramento, Eric Jones, who explained that the reason for the presentation was to update the BOS of this new committee’s progress. Commission Chair, Khaim Morton presented the rest of the update.

The presentation focused on the commission's background and progress, beginning with their mission and purpose:

To improve transparency and accountability with respect to the Sacramento County Sheriff’s Office and provide greater community interaction and communication with the Office of Inspector General

Morton explained that the CRC was looking to fully embrace their mission and create stronger ties between the community and the SSO.

The CRC's background is quite simple since it was just assembled earlier this year. As the presentation explained, AB 1185 was passed in January of 2021 and the BOS approved Resolution 2020-0255 which established the CRC. From June 2021 to March 2022, applications were accepted for membership and the CRC was built.

The presentation slide deck is linked here. Some important slides can be found below:

The next section of the presentation listed the progress the CRC made, as well as what they have planned for the future.

Some of the progress mentioned was regarding the actual creation of the Commission - including training and orientation, adoption of rules and regulations, selection of commission members, and approval of the 2022 Annual Review Report. Lastly, Morton went through the CRC’s future plans. One of the biggest planned activities for the CRC was providing input into the Office of Inspector General selection - a goal which has since been accomplished with the appointment of Francine Tournour as IG on 8/23/22.

The presentation also emphasized greater community outreach in order to rebuild trust with SSO. Whatever that means.

So what does this mean to us? What does this mean to social justice?

This is important to social justice because this commission plays such a large role when reviewing the SSO and their actions, especially since the SSO is super problematic and receives such a large amount of the county budget. We need to hold this Commission accountable for holding the Sheriff accountable!

On August 16th the CRC met outside of the BOS to discuss their work within Sacramento Community and the SSO - some important items from the meeting are discussed below

These meetings are designed to improve public transparency and accountability between the community and the Sheriff's office.

First up, item 1: public comments relating to matters not on the posted agenda

A representative of Family Advocates for Assisted Outpatient Treatment spoke first; the group involves concerned citizens advocating around mental health policy. This group has advocated for the Board of Supervisors implementing an assisted outpatient treatment (AOT) roll out in October 2022.

AOT has been established in California according the bill listed below - Sacramento is one of the participating Counties

Basically AOT is court-mandated outpatient mental health treatment. The program shifted to an opt-out system rather than opt-in in 2021 - Sacramento chose not to opt-out.

The group made it known that there are currently many people going through mental health challenges. Some face many hardships that are not often highlighted. For example, Diana Burdick, one of the members of the Family Advocates group, told her son’s story. She discussed his hardships with mental health, from going in and out of jail for minor offenses to being unhoused without General Aid or Cal Fresh. His anosognosia makes it so that he does not have insight into his mental health condition.

The commenter called for the Commission to review the training programs that the staff will receive for the upcoming AOT programs, and to extend support towards persons with serious mental illness.

The members of the CRC demonstrated a desire to make this issue a formal topic on the agenda. One point of discussion consisted of establishing rehabilitation methods for when the county jail releases individuals back into the community.

Although this was the only public comment, the members of the meeting showed an interest in responding to mental health issues. It is important that the AOT roll out be implemented effectively and efficiently when establishing the program in October.

Next, item 4: Community Engagement and Communication Plan

  1. Review revised plan

  2. Approve promotional materials and FAQ Sheet

The Commission received a presentation on the County’s communications process and practices from the Public Information Director.

During their previous meeting, the Commissioners expressed concern that many residents were not aware of the Commission’s existence. This makes it harder for feedback to be obtained. To remedy this problem, the Commission tasked the Public Information Director with drafting a community engagement and communication plan.

Back in June the Commission devised a plan to increase communication among members of the community. In July, the Commission developed a flyer, a FAQ sheet, and a list of organizations for community outreach.

The purpose of placing this item on the agenda was to approve the promotional materials developed. The Commission asked for a single page document noting the purpose of the Commission along with information on how to contact them. In addition, the Commission sought to add links to clerk websites and other relevant pages.

One of the newly created fact sheets can be found below, there is also a link to it below the image

Some of the materials containing important information are linked below:

Finally, item 6: Receive a Presentation On Mays Consent Decree

On August 16th the Community Review Commission received a presentation on the Mays Consent Decree. This presentation was a follow-up presentation designed to explain what the Mays Consent Decree is and how its implementation is being handled.

What is the Mays Consent Decree?

Mays is an order from the federal court which arises out of a class action law suit titled "Mays et al v County of Sacramento". This lawsuit started in 2014 in response to advocates from Disability Rights of CA, and other groups, finding out that inmates were facing extreme cases of unconstitutional confinements.

The advocates sent a letter to the Sheriff regarding the unconstitutional confinement in jail. The Sheriff allowed the advocates to tour the jail and the advocates were not pleased with the conditions. After the tour the advocates sought help from experts to confirm that the conditions in the jail were unconstitutional and the experts agreed that the conditions were not suitable.

After 5 years of negotiations, a settlement was reached to order the jail to come into compliance with the Americans with Disabilities Act.

What were the conditions in the jail?

The experts found 3 main points of concern:

-Medical care insufficiency

-Mental health care insufficiency

-Inmates spending excessive amounts of time in their cells

Scope of the problem

Although this decree deals with Sacramento County, the advocates found similar conditions in other counties including: Riverside, Fresno, Monterey, San Bernardino, LA, Contra Costa, Santa Clara, and Santa Barbara. These counties have also adopted similar decrees.

Why do the conditions exist?

The presentation alluded to staffing reductions which decreased medical services in the jail. Another reason they gave is that AB 109 passed in 2011, changed the jail population from a pretrial detention system towards a situation where people were detained for longer than a year, which therefore caused a staff shortage for medical and mental health purposes. A third claim is that the old and small structures that make up the county jails are the cause of the problem. But really, wouldn't releasing folx from jail, or EVEN not incarcerating them in the first place solve a lot of these problems??

What is the consent decree plan?

The plan is to implement several programs to change the conditions of confinement. This includes a Segregation and Housing Plan to address conditions of confinement, the Americans with Disability Act Plan to comply with the ADA, a suicide prevention plan and a plan to monitor how the County and Sherriff attend to inmates with mental health concerns. Lastly, a specific protocol for mental health care and medical care will be developed. Again, WHY? This is a ridiculous waste of resources and time, not to mention the abuse of human rights that is taking place within County jails, that will serve NO purpose, other than continue to build and perpetuate systems of mass incarceration.

What challenges are being faced?

The initial plan in the decree was set to roll out in January 2020. However, after COVID most of the plans were ignored and many inmates endured further health problems in regard to COVID. If people are to remain in jail, it is important to handle and face health concerns in jail instead of merely ignoring them until the problem has caused irreparable harm.

What has been done?

An intensive outpatient program has been created to expand care to mentally ill adults. This includes assessing inmates at the time of their release and referring them to any further resources. In addition, policies and procedures have been drafted. The Sheriff's office has also created a compliance unit within each facility that specifically addresses ADA and consent decree issues. KEEP IN MIND that these claims to "treatment" are being put forth by the SSO, and most definitely do not reflect reality. We know that mentally ill people detained in Sac County jails are not being provided with sufficient, trauma-informed mental health care, and they are certainly not being effectively connect to resources upon release.

County Commissioned Reports

3 reports will be made available to the public in the next upcoming weeks. These include: a report on the number of people that can be housed in the Main Jail while still complying to the decree, a report on how many people can be reasonably diverted or released from custody to reduce the average daily population, and a peer review of the 2 reports above.

Experts stated that some areas of the jail will never be able to comply with the decree because of the structure of the facility. One example was the booking area for inmates which was described as extremely narrow.

Experts stated that the County could reasonably divert/release up to 600 people from the system in order to reduce the jail population. This release would not be overnight and it was not specified over what period of time these inmates would be released.

Yep, releasing 600 people will definitely solve the problem.

What are the next steps?

A couple BOS workshops will take place to obtain direction on reducing the population. In addition, the Community Corrections Partnership will discuss specific programs to implement in the jail to conform to the decree.

It is important to look out for the reports once they are made available to the public in order to be informed when the BOS workshops occur. We will work to keep you up to date on everything that will be taking place!

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