Shasta County Sheriff Proposes Two-Pronged Solution to Reopening Jail’s Third Floor

Photo by Doni Chamberlain

Following a chaotic morning session ending prematurely in an unscheduled recess when board chair Patrick Jones lost control of his audience at 10:30 a.m., the Shasta County Board of Supervisors returned to a full agenda of county business by approximately 12:35 p.m.

First up was a two-pronged proposal by Shasta County Sheriff/Coroner Michael Johnson, accompanied by Undersheriff Brian Jackson — supervisor of the Patrol Division — and Capt. Logan Stonehouse, who supervises the Custody Division.

Undersheriff Jackson explained the personnel needs of the entire department as background for the two proposals; one a long-term fix and the second a more complicated but quicker, although temporary, solution.

“We’ve tried pay incentives, changing our training programs around, conducting internal audits and surveys, as well as having our command staff working some of the shifts at the jail” explained Undersheriff Jackson.

“While attempting to recruit from out of state, we’ve discovered that isn’t working. We’ve found not many people in law enforcement want to move to California,” Jackson noted.

Undersheriff Brian Jackson

“We have put forth a lot of effort in the last 16 months since the new sheriff’s administration team took over,” he added.

Jackson then narrated a series of slides showing staffing needs on each floor and department of the county jail along with related functions such as processing bookings and releases, offering various rehabilitation services, transporting jail inmates to court appearances or to out-of-state jurisdictions, as well as the basic differences between sworn law enforcement officers and custody peace officers.

Enforcement side deputies have full Peace Officer positions and carry full 24-hour/7-days a week authority and powers, which usually requires a minimum of 664 hours of Peace Officer Standards and Training (POST) with testing in 42 separate areas of instruction called Learning Domains, Sheriff Johnson explained.

Most POST-certified basic training academies exceed the 664-hour minimum by 200 or more hours, with some academies presenting more than 1000 hours of training and testing, according to the California Commission on Police Officer Standards and Training website.

Custody Officers, on the other hand, have limited powers and are armed only while on duty. They are trained by and governed by guidelines under the administration of the California Board of State and Community Corrections (BSCC), Johnson added.

To explain more fully, Capt. Stonehouse spoke of the administrative team’s efforts to reach out and talk with sheriff’s departments in other counties who have similar operation systems and needs.

“Most of the jails we studied are all struggling with staffing needs similar to our own,” he noted.

A Long-Term Solution

“The bottom line is, we need five new fully trained sworn deputies. This would allow us to delete nine Correctional Deputies and add nine Deputy Sheriffs including a Sergeant to oversee the jail’s administrative needs for court transport, processing and holding, reception, video arraignments, and state transportation needs,” Sheriff Johnson stated.

“This would allow us to absorb six new Correction Officers to work only in the jail doing inmate supervision,” Johnson said.

It’s easier to hire Patrol Deputies, who require 23 weeks at a POST academy along with a two-week STC Core Training Program designed for the adult corrections officer who has previously completed the Peace Officers Standards and Training (POST) Basic Academy Course, the sheriff stated.

Captain Logan Stonehouse

“This program has proven successful in Placer County,” Capt. Stonehouse said.

As a result, this plan would cost the county an estimated $1.7 million in additional personnel costs to implement but could be offset by savings of $800,000 annual contract with the Marshall’s Office could be eliminated since Shasta County Sheriff’s Deputies would be doing all of the court transportation duties, Stonehouse added.

“The net budget increase would be approximately $9 million,” he said.

“You are probably asking yourself why add more deputies when we cannot house all of our inmates?” Sheriff Johnson asked rhetorically.

“By adding sworn deputies, we can pull back more correctional deputies, but this is not the ultimate solution for a long-term fix. However, we are confident it will work as long as we implement it along with our Public Safety Services Officer (PSSO) proposal, who would provide some of the processing of arrestees duties currently taking place at our off-site facility on Breslauer Way in Redding,” the sheriff noted.

PSSO personnel are non-sworn paraprofessional civilians who work in support services for law enforcement. They earn from $17.78 to $22.20 per hour or an annual salary between $36,348 to $46,392, he said.

Currently, however, a contractual agreement implemented by a previous sheriff grants a $3 per hour stipend if a PSSO works in the jail, Johnson noted.

“To make this proposal work, it would behoove us to up the base pay. That wage needs to be increased,” he added.

Another advantage that might help with recruitment is to institute a clear career path that would allow PSSO personnel to transition to Correctional Deputy positions after a certain amount of experience, then with additional jail experience, allow them to also move into either the Patrol Deputy or Custody Deputy role, Sheriff Johnson stated.

A Short-Term (Immediate) Solution

The second solution could be implemented sooner, however, it is only a short-term solution that comes with a potentially serious downside that could leave fewer deputies on patrol in Shasta County’s rural areas, Johnson said.

Sheriff Michael Johnson

“We need a total of 12 bodies per shift to open the vacant floor of our three-story jail. Of these, we would need seven sworn peace officers and five non-sworn personnel,” he added.

“I am proposing that we ask for one sworn officer from each of our incorporated cities, one from the District Attorney’s office, another one from the Marshall’s office, and three others from Probation, Health and Human Services, and the Auditor’s Office. The Shasta County Sheriff’s Office would commit to providing two sworn officers and two non-sworn personnel to make up the full complement,” Johnson said.

“I am suggesting this commitment from our partner agencies would be done on a six-month rotation for a total commitment of 18 months,” he added.

“I’ve proposed the concept with my counterparts at each of the other agencies except for the three county agencies,” he offered.

“Without getting into specifics, the cities are interested in the concept because they realize this is a Shasta countywide need to solve jail staffing, not just a Shasta County government problem. There are several roadblocks to getting this done quickly due to salary differentials, rank responsibilities, and collective bargaining agreements with each entity,” he said.

“There is also a downside to this plan which is why it is only a short-term, immediate fix. By pulling our deputies off patrol to staff the jail, we are just trading one problem for another. When our jail is fully staffed and our cities are putting more people into the jail, the criminals will simply shift their operations to the under-patrolled county areas,” Johnson said.

“In addition, our efforts to continue with illegal marijuana cultivation, drug enforcement and training of detectives and maintaining our rural deputies will all suffer,” he continued.

To make the plan work, it requires the cooperation of all three cities, other county agencies as well as all of the respective bargaining units,” he noted.

“To pay for this, we may also need to take another look at tax sharing agreements since we are no longer able to charge for booking fees like we used to,” Johnson said.

“This, however, is your job to get this plan implemented,” he added.

To get started on implementation, county supervisors will need to take three actions, Johnson noted.

  1. Authorize our proposed staffing plan
  2. Increase the base salary for our PSSO personnel
  3. Achieve a tax-sharing plan and union consent

However, since the sheriff’s presentation was agendized for information purposes only, the only action supervisors could take Tuesday was to direct staff to place the sheriff’s proposals on a future agenda for action, a motion that received unanimous approval.

Other Business:

Zogg Fire

On a 3-2 vote — with District 3 Supervisor Mary Rickert and District 2 Supervisor Tim Garman voting no — supervisors asked staff to bring back for board consideration a more strongly worded letter. According to District 1 Supervisor Kevin Crye, the new letter would contain many details and specifics of the Zogg Fire civil settlement case, with Pacific Gas & Electric (PGE) asking California Attorney General Rob Bonta’s staff to look into how the settlement case was handled by Shasta County District Attorney Stephanie Bridgett’s staff as well as how the $50 million in settlement funds were distributed.

Under activities taken by each supervisor:

District 1 Supervisor Kevin Crye took some heat from public commenters regarding his plans to attend a Mike Lindell-sponsored Election Crime Bureau Symposium in Springfield, Mo.

Crye said he never intended to go to the event and never authorized his name or photograph be placed on the event’s promotional poster as a featured speaker from Shasta County.

“I’m asked to speak somewhere at least several times each month. As for Missouri, I never was committed to that event. I never would go to it. I’m not interested in political election events. Plus, this is the first week of school and both of my children are starting school and my wife is a teacher, so I need to be here,” Crye said.

Chair Patrick Jones, representing Supervisor District 4, then reminded his fellow board members of his Aug. 31, election fraud event at the Redding Holiday Inn on Hilltop Avenue.

George Winship

George Winship is a long-time Shasta County resident with a wide range of professional and community experience. After earning a master’s degree in journalism from the University of Oregon, he joined the Redding Record Searchlight as an award-winning reporter, and was the paper’s first business editor. He worked as a district field representative for Senator Maurice Johannessen, and later became editor of the Anderson Valley Post. Winship is a former Shasta County Grand Jury member. He owns and operates The Village Wordsmith, where he edits and rewrites clients’ book manuscripts, and works as a researcher and freelance feature writer. He can be reached at gwinship@shasta.com.

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