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PRESTON SCHOOL OF INDUSTRY

Authority for Review

Grand Jury jurisdiction provided by Penal Code Section 919(b).

Background

Mandatory annual review of operations.

Method of Review

Interview with Superintendent
Interview with Assistant Superintendent
Interview with Program Administrator
Interview with Security Chief's representative
Interviews with staff members
Interviews with wards
Review of perimeter security system map
On-site visits

Findings

The Preston School of Industry is a detention and educational facility for youthful offenders located in Ione, California, in the shadow of the Preston Castle. It operates under the auspices of the California Youth Authority.

There have been three Superintendents during the twelve month period ending June 1997. Preston has 500 employees of which 50 to 55% live in Amador County. Of the employees 250 are peace officers, 135 are counselors and the remaining are in other roles. Many of the counselors have been at Preston for more than a decade.

Preston is a school and wards spend a significant portion of each day in class. The curriculum is designed to enable the wards to earn a high school diploma or to take the GED examination.

Preston's ward population changes daily with approximately 960 wards ranging in age from 15 to 20. The wards vary from low to high security risk. Some wards have serious drug dependencies. A formalized substance abuse program using the Framework for Recovery and the AA 12 step program is used at Preston.

There is a high correlation of delinquency to the need for Special Education and about 200 wards qualify. Annual parental conferences are required for all Special Education wards. Some families cannot come to Preston for the conference so Preston has developed a Surrogate Parent program. The local community provides 200 volunteers that act as parents, tutors and other roles on behalf of the wards.

Vocational training is offered through the Food, Education And Service Training (F.E.A.S.T.) program. Wards in this program work in the staff and guest dining room located on the premises. Wards graduating from this program are qualified for employment in the restaurant business.

All wards are housed in lodges. Each lodge consists of an open dormitory, a meeting area, bathing area, and toilet facilities. Meals are served in a separate dining hall.

Redwood Lodge houses highly troubled, violence prone or drug addicted wards. Sleeping accommodations are individual cells. Meals are provided within their own dining facility. Three staff psychologists and a psychiatrist are assigned to provide intensive counseling and treatment. Current population of this lodge is 43.

Wards assigned to Ponderosa Lodge receive California Department of Forestry training for fighting wildfires. Graduates are eligible for assignment to a fire camp. During the later part of their training cycle, these wards also perform community service in supervised work crews. Only lowest security risk wards with no history of sex crimes or arson and with six months of good behavior are eligible for assignment to this program.

Hawthorne Lodge houses the volunteer Leadership, Esteem, Ability and Discipline (L.E.A.D.) program. The wards wear military style uniforms and tight discipline is maintained. Many wear ribbons which they have earned for various accomplishments such as physical fitness or an academic achievement. A full time psychologist is assigned to this program. There are anger management sessions and grief groups. The purpose of the program is to introduce some structure into the lives of the wards. Preston supervisors believe that a significant improvement in the recidivism rate is achieved through this program. Requirements are strict and only a limited number of wards are selected for the L.E.A.D. program. Wards with a history of violence are ineligible for the program.

Several of the cushioned chairs in the meeting area of Manzanita Lodge were badly torn. The inside springs and stuffing material were exposed leaving a place to hide small objects. A counselor stated that new non-cushioned chairs had been procured as replacements but required assembly.

Wards receive visitors in the visitor hall on either Saturday or Sunday as assigned. Some never have received a visit.

General security outside the lodges is provided by officers in mobile units. During the day there are three officers on duty and four officers during the evening and night. Security in the lodges is provided at night by a single counselor in a centrally located cage in the dorm room. If needed the counselor presses a button on his/her belt radio which will quickly summon assistance from the mobile units.

Daytime security in the lodges is ensured by the constant presence of three or four counselors. A count is taken four times a day at the sound of a steam whistle.

The compound has a perimeter chain link fence overlaid with a finer mesh to deter climbing. The fence is 15 feet high and is topped by razor wire. An alarm system detects pressure on the fence and signals the security office, including the sector where the pressure is detected. The mesh presents considerable resistance to wind which has resulted in false alarms and added stress on the fences footings which have required repairs in several locations as a result.

The fence is lighted at night and most of it is visible from one or both of the two watch towers. According to officials, a replacement perimeter fence has been authorized and funded. It will likely be in addition to the existing fence to save the cost of removing the existing one.

In the event of an escape a horn is sounded and a flashing blue light is activated. Local police agencies and radio broadcast stations are notified. Local citizens who have requested notification are contacted by telephone. An automated telephone alert system that will deliver notification is planned.

The escape of two wards last summer revealed weaknesses in the facilities and procedures. Since that occurrence, new slit windows are being installed in the appropriate buildings. Motion detectors are in place and operating, three people have been added to staff, new count procedures have been mandated, staff redeployment has taken place and a new perimeter fence has been designed and funded. The Superintendent has established an Internal Security Audit Team. The Team has prepared a report and manual of recommendations that is being used to improve procedures and facilities.

Conclusions

Preston provides a program aimed at reorienting troubled youths and preparing them for reentry into society with a good chance to become productive citizens.

The perimeter fence presents some security and maintenance problems because of its physical characteristics.

The automation of the telephone alert system will speed the process of notification if an escape occurs.

Installing the new chairs in Manzanita Lodge will help solve a security problem.

Progress is being made with security considerations at the facility.

Recommendations

Install the new perimeter fence.

Complete the automated telephone alert system.

Replace the chairs in the Manzanita Lodge.

Response Required

The Amador County Grand Jury requests the Superintendent respond to this report within 90 days as required by Penal Code Section 933(c).
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