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Civil Grand Jury Calls San Mateo County Women’s Jail a “Crowded Disgrace”

Civil Grand Jury Calls San Mateo County Women's Jail a "Crowded Disgrace"

The San Mateo County (California) Civil Grand Jury found that the decades-old Women's Correctional Center in Redwood City was so deficient that it must be replaced. In its annual jail review, the Jury noted that the women's facility did not provide the same standards as the nearby modern Maguire Correctional Facility men's jail.

While Jury foreman Ted Glasgow declared the women?s facility a "crowded disgrace" that was old and outdated, he said the visiting facility was the worst part. "One of the main things lacking that jumps out at you ... [is that] mothers and children have no space to get together." Where the men?s facility has one visiting room for every 24 prisoners, the women's jail has only one room for every 65.

As to overcrowding, the women's jail (with a capacity of 84) was crammed with up to 149 prisoners. The beds are in open-bay dorm settings, forcing sentenced and unsentenced prisoners of all classifications to be housed together. This has led to altercations and has prevented rehabilitation programs from working. Specifically, the Jury found that the women's facility had no provision for serious mental health patients (who had to be housed in Maguire) and had no classroom/service areas.

In a separate report, the Jury further found that due to chronic overcrowding and staff shortages, the women's jail was "woefully inadequate" and "not designed or staffed to deal with" a major contagious disease outbreak. The jail's open-dorm living conditions, centralized toilet and shower areas, absence of isolation facilities, and lack of a plan to deal with an epidemic were also found to be deficiencies in case of mass sickness among the prisoner population.

The men's jail, while designed for 688 prisoners, held from 883 to 950 in a pod-type design. The facility and all the jail operations were rated "well-managed." The Camp Glenwood juvenile honor camp also was lauded, and the Jury noted its wide range of effective programs and services, including programs for the resocialization of repeat offenders to reduce delinquency and crime. The existing 58-year-old Hillcrest Juvenile Hall was called "old and barely serviceable," but was later phased out when a new $150 million Youth Services Center opened on September 15, 2006. The Center includes a 180-bed juvenile hall, a 30-bed girls' honor ranch, a 24-bed group home and probation offices, courts and mental health offices. It is designed to comply with the State Board of Corrections' regulations for care of youth in detention.

Overall the Jury gave the jails good marks, but cited an urgent need to build a new Women's Correctional Center and to reduce overcrowding at both the current women's jail and the Maguire men's facility.

Sources: San Mateo County Civil Grand Jury Report, San Mateo County Detention Facilities, July 2006; Summary of Pandemic Influenza Preparedness at the San Mateo County's Women's Correctional Facility, Oct. 2006

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