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Meeting Information


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Commission Meeting of Sept 25, 2001
-----part two----------------------

9. Public Comment on any matter within the subject matter jurisdiction of the Juvenile Probation Commission.
Judge Katherine Feinstein: Stressed how important it is to have a good working Ranch facility. The system cannot function properly without it. She mentioned the increase in CYA recommendations due to the moratorium on referrals to LCR. This impacted the detention conditions with youth kept in the hall awaiting resolution to their cases. Without a Ranch option, the court is left with Out of Home Placements (OHP), and in many cases the youth has already failed this, in some cases more than once; or the court looks to CYA, but only when deemed appropriate.
What she has seen is an increased number of OHP recommendations and not enough sites for them, so they sit in juvenile hall waiting. She cited one day recently where 19 boys were in juvenile hall awaiting OHP. At the same time, LCR has 38 residents, 45% of its capacity. She said that once the 14 slated for graduation, leave, then LCR will be at 28% of its capactiy (84). Something is wrong.
She commented that any plan to fix the place needs to address how the current situation was reached. She said it was clear to her that in this past year Johnny Miller was operating LCR without sufficient staffing and without programming support. She referred to a strategic plan for LCR, which came to her via email, without the author’s identity, without evidence of who was involved in the process, or whether it was subject to public review.
She said she was very disappointed, as she attempted to get the Dept to discuss this in Feb, but received no response to the court’s concerns about LCR. Returning to the strategic plan she said that it appears that no input was gotten from the LCR residents, the POs, and definitely no input from the courts.
She said that if the facility is going to work, then they have to work on it together. The Dept needs to address the courts’ concerns, otherwise there will be no confidence in sending kids there (as has happened in the past).. She painted the plan as ’pie in the sky,’ until staffing is brought up to an appropriate level. The court has heard testimony that counselors are working back to back, double shifts. Some sleep at Hidden Valley because they don’t have time to go home between shifts indicates something. The fact that no counselors are available to take kids to a GED test says something.
She said she was told an aggressive recruitment campaign was underway last Feb. but that hasn’t worked. She said that San Mateo Co. isn’t having the same problem, and they’re next door to LCR. Why can’t LCR recruit appropriate staff? The responsibility is "yours" [speaking to the Commission].
She commented that using Donald Sanders (Asst. Director) to do background checks on potential staff is a real sad use of his time. And if he has been doing these checks since July, why do we still not have the staff?
In reference to the disciplinary system being changed from negative (punitive) to positive (incentive), she said it was long overdue. But additionally, the Dept needs to develop a profile of youth it wants to serve at LCR, rather than it being a dumping ground for all youth, with diverse problems (violent offenders, sex offenders, mental health issues, substance abusers, etc).. The only way LCR can serve the youth well, is if you know who is being sent. Unless you specify the needs you want to serve at the Ranch, you can never individually tailor the services to all youth.
The disciplinary system also needs to have an equitable, consistent termination policy. Currently there is no consistency; every boy coming back before her court complained that they were terminated for lessor total offenses, or less severe offenses than others who were not taken out of LCR. There are no clear expectations for success or failure.
The mental health/therapeutic services need rebuilding at the ranch. Why can’t SPY be responsible for providing those services. The plan (referred to before) mentions an agreement with community mental health is spearheading. The judge said that in past years, partnerships with community mental health and this Dept have had really serious problems. To do another one with an agency that we have trouble with, for whatever reason, to do a very critical function, seems foolhardy. urrent it’s SPY’s responsibility. Any change in that responsibility needs to be very well coordinated with community mental health as well as the school district who has an obligation to provide mental health services to certain youth.
Vocational programs: LCR has suffered from a complete lack of consistency in this area. The big picture: youth need and want vocational, educational training, therapeutic services, recreational programs, and social skills training. To date, every logical vocational program has been short lived. Why? The young men need training in vocational areas where they are likely to get jobs when they return to an urban community, not in areas that are more appropriate for weekend hobbies. She asked how many jobs are available in horsemanship or photography, or how many barbering positions there are. She questioned the rationale for going to outside agencies to peform these functions, why the Dept can’t do it with its own staff. She is struck by the fact that every contract to provide vocational services at LCR have had one or another program in this last year, resulting in either suspension or termination of the program. This leaves the young men with too much non constructive time. This cannot be permitted.
There does not need to be another outside consultant to design a plan or program. There should be the talent in this Dept to create a good ranch program and run it.
The judge said she was horrendously alarmed at the plan’s intention of emulating Piney Woods Life School. She related what Piney Woods was: a Christian values school in a rural community, which accepts no criminal offender. It is not a state sponsored school for juvenile offenders. She questioned why the Dept’s plan chose out of all the possible models in the United States, to emulating Piney Woods.
She said that we cannot afford another year, another study, another plan.
She said that the most important aspect of this endeavor is the appointment of a legitimate working oversight committee that will be responsible for seeing that an action plan is done. The court has offered on many occasions to work toward such an effort and to date the Dept has not taken her up on that offer. Things need to be made right, and it is your [the Commission’s] responsibility to ensure that that happens.
10. DISCUSSION) Announcements, requests for future agenda items.
Comm. Hale repeated his comments regarding the process of the Commission. He said the deliberative process is to work within the Committee structure. It is not that any Commissioner finds any item on the agnda not important, but unlike the Police Commission, there are items this Commission doesn’t deal with. The items tonight were only given lip service to, touched the tips of. They need more discussion, investigation, each one of them. But the Commission would do better if the committees did the information gathering. That is the role of committees. ’You’ need to be engaged in conversations with other commissioners about particular questions they may have, and discuss those, and at the appropriate times, bring them before the full Commission, hopefully with recommendations for action. This Commission has always accommodated Commissioners. We are dealing wih substantive issues, and this is what we’ve been driving towards, that will take prolonged conversations. For example, the hiring and staffing issues is appropriate for Personnel Committee. He said he was interested in hearing from Commissioners, for agenda items.
Comm. Arámburo explained that the items for LCRS were things asked by Program Committee to be addressed, with specific timelines. Agenda items shouldl give the Dept direction about what the Commission believes is important, and is consistent with the previous practice of the Commission. Maybe some of it can be taken up in committee, but it is also important to have the full Commission on the same page, and to have the opportunity to hear the public input, as they did at this meeting.
Comm. Arámburo asked the Dept. when the Masterplan, as developed by NCCD, will be presented to the Commission and for public comment and discussion at a Commission.
She also asked for a presentation from the City Attorney about sole source contracting and conflict of interest issues for the full Commission.
Comm. Chuck thanked Judge Feinstein for her candor and forthrightness.
He commented that it seems the Commission feels the great need to integrate a lot of information. And if it isn’t possible to cover everything at meetings, then it might demand the Commission having another retreat. He thinks there needs to be intensive committee work, but also the inclusion of all Commissioners in discussion and dialog.
Comm. Hale repeated that he wanted input fromthe Commission.
Comm. Grossman feels strongly that these kinds of issues need to be addressed at the full Commission, because without it , unless one can go to all the individual committees, you really can’t get the full picture.
11. (ACTION) Adjournment
Having no further business, the meeting was adjourned at 9:08 pm.

                                                  Minutes approved Oct. 24, 2001