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Placer supes rebuff grand jury juvenile-hall grievance-report request

Information seen by jurors as key part of investigation process
By: Gus Thomson, Journal Staff Writer
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AUBURN CA - The Placer County Board of Supervisors has rebuffed grand jury efforts to obtain information on serious incidents and grievances at the county’s North Auburn juvenile detention facility. The grand jury recommended in its July report that the county’s Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention Commission turn over a summary of incidents and grievances dealing with the facility that it has access to. That came after initial demands for full-blown reports were turned down at the staff level based on state law regarding the viewing of confidential records. The grand jury inspected the Richardson Drive facility and found it “clean, organized and well-maintained,” with the exception of graffiti on the floors of cells, which it stated was “quite extensive.” But an attempt to probe deeper into complaints by juveniles who had been incarcerated at the facility was turned down. “The grand jury is unable to secure the serious incident and grievance reports since they relate to minors,” the grand jury stated in its findings. “This inhibited our investigation and leaves open the question of grievances minor inmates may have.” In its response, supervisors stated that they disagree with the request for full reports because access to juvenile records requires a court order or a change in statutes that would authorize release of the reports. The grand jury’s recommendation to seek to amend the state Welfare and Institution Code section on juvenile records to allow information to be passed to the grand jury “requires further analysis,” the supervisors’ response states. The response states that it will consult with the county Department of Health and Human Services, the District Attorney’s Office, the Probation Department and the Juvenile Justice Commission to see if it can be included in the county’s legislative lobbying platform for the coming year. Grand jury foreperson John Wilhelm said Tuesday that the graffiti didn’t appear to be gang-related. Marshall Hopper, chief probation officer, reported to supervisors that graffiti abatement efforts had been reduced in recent years because of costs. But Hopper added that the floors of the facility have been repainted since the inspection and that daily room-inspection procedures now include staff notation of new graffiti. Wilhelm said that it appears that grand jury access to information will now come down to having the law changed. That could involve an effort by the California Grand Juries Association, he said. A local grand jury could subpoena the information through the District Attorney’s Office but Wilhelm said that would be a time-consuming approach for the volunteer grand jury, whose members typically serve a one-year term. Nevertheless, grand jury access to the complaint records would be an important piece in the puzzle as jurors make their yearly inspection and report on conditions at juvenile detention facilities, Wilhelm said. “We’re mandated to do an inspection and, in doing so, felt it was an important part of an investigation,” Wilhelm said.