Yolo County Jail inmate visits ‘discouraged,’ Grand Jury report reveals

Monroe Detention Center visitation policies have been unnecessarily onerous and have discouraged family and friends from seeing inmates, according to a report released Friday by the Yolo County Grand Jury.

The Grand Jury’s investigation, triggered by a citizen complaint in July 2017, found that Yolo County’s main jail required visitors to telephone between midnight on Sunday and 7 a.m. on Monday to schedule a visit with an inmate for the week ahead. Appointments could not be made online.

Following questioning by the Grand Jury, the jail introduced a new appointment process.

As part of its investigation, the Grand Jury reviewed posted visitation policies for jails in El Dorado, Napa, Placer, Sacramento, San Joaquin and Solano counties, according to Grand Jury Forewoman Judy Wohlfrom. The review found that no neighboring detention facility confines appointment scheduling to a single day of the week or to hours when most people are asleep or getting ready for school and work.

In addition, many neighboring detention facilities offered online appointment scheduling and some hosted video visits.

The Yolo County Sheriff’s Office, which administers the Woodland jail, states in its own policies that county detention facilities “shall enable and encourage inmates to maintain contact and relationships with family and friends through the visiting process,” according to the Grand Jury report.

Research has shown that when inmates stay connected with their children, spouses and other loved ones, they adjust better to prison life and are significantly less likely to reoffend after their release, stated Wohlfrom.

In its report, the Grand Jury made three recommendations:

•The Yolo County Sheriff should direct the Monroe Detention Center to further encourage jail visits by revising the schedule for making appointments by establishing extended hours that are more convenient and family-friendly.

•The Monroe Detention Center should study the policies of similar county jails and adopt best practices for visitation scheduling.

•The Monroe Detention Center should explore possible funding from Yolo County or other sources to enable implementation of an online scheduling system for making appointments and video visits.

The Grand Jury report noted that Monroe officials interviewed during the investigation expressed willingness to test a less restrictive appointment process “as soon as possible.” Monroe officials also indicated that an expected new computer system may allow them to offer online scheduling within two years.

The Yolo County Grand Jury is made up of 19 citizens selected by the Yolo County Superior Court. Jurors serve one-year terms that conclude on June 30 each year. In addition to advising the county District Attorney on whether to bring indictments in select criminal cases, the Yolo County Grand Jury also conducts an annual inquiry into the condition and management of public jails and serves as a citizen watchdog over public offices and agencies within the county.

May 11, 2018

Daily Democrat

By Democrat staff

 

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