Imperial County Civil Grand Jury releases report

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EL CENTRO — The 2016-17 Civil Grand Jury Imperial County issued its annual report June 30 with investigative findings on various Valley institutions, both civil and private. Each year, a jury of 19 members and six County citizens from all backgrounds, districts, and races, investigates issues that concerned residents file through formal letters. The jury also investigates and evaluates public institutions as well, such as correctional facilities.

Besides investigating and inquiring on the government’s business, the jury recommends improvements on government agency operations in regards to efficiency and cost savings, according to the report. The Honorable Christopher Plourd, an Imperial County Superior Court judge, presided over the jury. The Civil Grand Jury does not investigate criminal matters.

The Jury found no pressing problems with the two prisons located in Imperial County, however, it recommended enlisting more faith-based chaplains who would reflect the community at large and could interact with Juvenile Hall Wards, according to the report.

For the Imperial County jail, the Grand Jury recommended the County listen to the administrative jail staff’s request to open a county facility to temporarily house the mental inmates to take the load from the jail. The Jury recommended the administrative jail staff work with other agencies and the County Board of Supervisors so that a single, standard Medical/Mental form would be used by all agencies, the report said. The Jury also recommended more females be hired.

The District Attorney’s office was looked into, and the report noted the Deputy DA believed more prison rape cases occur among inmates than most people think, but because of the prison culture, the victims as a rule do not normally inform on their assailants. This is reflected by very few prison rape cases being prosecuted by the District Attorney’s office, the report stated.

The Deputy DA reported there are scheduling problems with prison inmate cases. During transport, apparently prisoners encountered other prisoners from different gangs and extraordinary care had to be done to shuffle inmates in and out of holding cells or vehicles to make sure they did not clash and cause a large disturbance. Inmates must also be transported back and forth between the prisons and the court buildings, the report said. If there was a larger place to hold inmates, or a different courtroom to handle prison cases, it would be safer for both the inmates and the public at large, the report said.

It was the Grand Jury’s recommendation for the county District Attorney’s office to work with the courts and prisons to hold hearings right on the prison grounds themselves. The jury believed keeping the inmates on the prison grounds would be safer all around, for inmates and the public at large, according to the reported findings.

Another institution in the Jury’s report was the Imperial County Public Administrator Department, whose goal is to avoid or reduce premature institutionalization of the disabled or frail elderly residents through community education and by helping individuals and family members access medial, nutritional, social, legal, and other services.

The Jury members visited several conservatees of the Public Administrator who have been placed in nursing homes and private homes. The Jury’s findings were positive, saying it was impressed with the quality, cleanliness, and professionalism of the nursing homes in Yuma and El Centro. The conservatees were happy and well cared for, and the staff readily answered questions, the report read. However, the Jury was not as impressed with the air quality of the Brawley nursing home. While the staff was professional and the conservatees well cared for, it was not of the same quality as the Yuma or El Centro locations, according to the written report.

The Jury received approximately 90 written complaints from the Hearthstone community in Calexico against the city of Calexico and its handling of the maintenance and general infrastructure with the subdivision. The homeowners of the district agreed to pay an additional property tax in exchange for certain services, maintenance projects, and general infrastructure, according to the report. The complaints were generally unified in saying the city was not living up to its part of the arrangement. It was alleged the streets in the Hearthstone Community are in general disrepair, some streets have potholes, sidewalks are buckling and there are exposed gas pipes, the report said. Some complainants advised of the Hearthstone Community going to Calexico City Council meetings with a lack of full cooperation.

The Jury concluded the city of Calexico failed the citizens of Hearthstone Community when they had a May 2009 list of things that were needed, and by November 2011 had not acted to rectify the situation, the report said. The jury was unable to find any bids for Hearthstone projects.

The present city administration has owned up to the city failing in the past, and has stated it will not only use the $1 million bankruptcy settlement, but add another approximate half million to make things right. The Jury agreed with Calexico’s solution. The city might not be financially secure enough to do all that is requested or even needed, but if they go through with the bids to do at least what was said they would do this time, it could go a long way to improve the safety of the streets and sidewalks in the Hearthstone Community, the Civil Grand Jury report concluded.