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County OKs New Study of Jail Conditions

November 18, 1987|JOHN NEEDHAM | Times County Bureau Chief

County supervisors Tuesday voted to pay a consultant $25,000 to study jail conditions in the hope it will end the 10-year-old lawsuit against them, but voted 3 to 2 to exclude the grand jury from taking part in the research.

Supervisors Gaddi H. Vasquez, Don R. Roth and Thomas F. Riley voted against including the grand jury. Several supervisors said later that they felt that Board Chairman Roger R. Stanton failed to consult with them on the issue.

Lawrence G. (Bud) Grossman, who has been the county's consultant on the jail since last January, won the new contract for a new firm he has established, Correctional Consultants of California.

Special Overseer

Grossman has also been the special overseer of the jail for U.S. District Judge William P. Gray since 1985, when Gray found the supervisors in contempt for not heeding his 1978 order to end jail overcrowding.

Although Vasquez delayed approval of the contract last week when he said he was concerned by Grossman's potential conflict in serving both Gray and the county on the same issue, he said Tuesday that his worries on that score "have been relieved and have been retired."

But he also said that there should be "a distinction and a separation" of the Grossman study, done as the latest response to a federal lawsuit filed by the American Civil Liberties Union in 1976, and the broader studies that grand juries conduct of county facilities like the jail.

Stanton and Supervisor Harriett M. Wieder voted to include at least one member of the grand jury in the study team, which will also include an ACLU attorney. Stanton and Wieder said having two studies would duplicate efforts and waste money.

'Overall Review'

Grossman's proposal for his study said it would be "an overall review" of the jail system, resulting in a report that he said "hopefully can result in the county filing for dismissal of this lawsuit" regarding jail conditions.

But ACLU attorney Richard Herman said any dismissal of the suit after Grossman's report "is just not going to happen."

Herman said he will fight against dismissing the suit until he sees that the county has ended overcrowding, improved medical facilities and carried out other improvements in the jail and that the situation has stabilized for a long period of time.

Earlier this year Gray, at one of his periodic hearings on jail conditions, said he would like to see a study of how the system operates. The county eventually asked Grossman for a proposal, saying he was the only one invited to bid because his expertise on the system was unmatched.

One supervisor, who declined to be identified by name, said after the vote that Stanton was the only supervisor aware of the progress of the study proposal. "None of us, the other four, were in the loop," the supervisor said.

Another supervisor agreed, saying that the study proposal surprised most board members when it appeared on their agenda last week and that Stanton's suggestion that a grand jury member be included "was like throwing gasoline on the fire."

Stanton said that "any feelings like that are absolutely preposterous" and that "no supervisor has said that to me."

Stanton said during the supervisors' discussion that the supervisors were told on Nov. 2 that the Grossman proposal was coming up Nov. 10, providing "plenty of time for all the board offices to review that."

He said that the grand jury reported in September that it wanted to study the jail and that two weeks ago a county official suggested including a grand jury member on Grossman's study team.

Grossman's proposal said his study would include problems of overcrowding, meals, noise, inmates' access to attorneys, use of force by guards, recreation and the use of disciplinary isolation.

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