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Inyo answers jury’s justice-system advice

October 23, 2012

Law enforcement officials in Inyo County are working to implement recommendations made by local watchdogs this summer in their annual report.
The 2011-12 Grand Jury took a close look at operations at the Inyo County Jail and Juvenile Detention Center and the District Attorney’s office during its term, offering guidance and recommended changes to help the departments better serve the public.
In a response to the Grand Jury last week, high level officials said they are already implementing some of the citizen watchdog group’s suggestions. In some cases, officials said Grand Jury recommendations will not be implemented because the department head did not agree with the Grand Jury’s finding, or because it is not physically or financially feasible.
After meeting with D.A. Art Maillet and his staff, the Grand Jury recommended that the D.A.’s office begin issuing regular press releases to local media outlets to end what Mallet called “a flow of misinformation and misstatements through the press.”
The Grand Jury also recommended that the county establish an ongoing workshop for all county executives on ways keep and improve media and public relations.
In the county response to the recommendations, local leaders said the Grand Jury’s recommendation needs further analysis. “The Board of Supervisors would expect the District Attorney, an elected official of the county, to establish what he deems would be an appropriate relationship with the media and it is not within the jurisdiction of this board to dictate the confines of that relationship,” the response states. “The Board of Supervisors believes that the county has a good working relationship with the local news media outlets, but also recognizes that there may be opportunities to improve these relationships as well as the county’s communication with citizens.”
The Grand Jury also recommended that the D.A. work with trial judges to arrange plea agreements before trial dates are set to avoid last-minute jury cancellations. “There should be no last-minute ‘sweeteners’ offered at or on the date of the trial,” the Grand Jury said.
The county said that recommendation will not be implemented because “it is not reasonable. The Board of Supervisors does not believe that it has a role in this recommendation. The management of the courts and trials falls to the judges and the attorneys that participate in the judicial system.”
The Grand Jury also recommended that a retired judge from outside the county head a panel directed to study the current court system and recommend improvements.
Again, county leaders said that recommendation needed further analysis. “The Board agrees that such an effort could result in recommendations that would help alleviate those areas of the criminal justice system … that cause unnecessary and costly delays in both time and money for the courts, the county and the residents of the county. However, as previously stated, the Board of Supervisors has no ability to require the courts or elected county officials to implement or not implement recommendations.
In its report to the Inyo County Sheriff’s Department regarding Inyo County Jail, the Grand Jury said the sheriff and his deputies are to be commended for the overall appearance and upkeep of the facility, their “comprehensive and thorough approach to disseminating and enforcing rules and regulations” and for “highly efficient and sufficient staff providing for all inmate needs.”
The only recommendation the Grand Jury made was to have consistent monitoring of inmates in detox, as jurors found a “wide timing variations” in detox monitoring between night and day shifts.
The county said in its response that the recommendation has been implemented.
At the Juvenile Detention Facility, the Grand Jury said staff should be commended for their dedication and resourceful use of manpower, but that an aging video surveillance system is an issue, and should be rectified as soon as funding is available.
The county said that recommendation has been implemented. “The fiscal year of 2012-13 Board-approved County Budget identifies and discusses this project as a project that could be funded later this year… the department head indicates h will be able to secure funding to pay for at least two-thirds or more of the estimated cost of replacing the system.”
The final recommendation the Grand Jury made is that the county identify funding for a new fence for the west parking lot.
The county said that recommendation will not be implemented because it is not warranted. “The chief probation officer has reported that juvenile halls throughout the state do not have secure employee parking areas,” the response states.

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