Youth jail fixes could cost $274K 

Conceding to reports that call for improvements to its youth detention facility, San Mateo County’s probation officers have requested $274,000 to train extra help for the jail’s staff.

Chief Probation Officer Loren Buddress recently presented the first list of enhancements after being asked by the Board of Supervisors in June to respond to two reports on how to improve safety at the Youth Services Center in the unincorporated Eichler Highlands neighborhood. On Valentine’s Day, Josue Orozco, 17, escaped from the jail while awaiting a murder trial. He is still at large.

In addition to the funds request, Buddress is hammering out a list of physical upgrades that he said are needed for the jail. Buddress requested $25,000 from the county to hire a consultant to determine which upgrades could be performed by county public works employees. The list of structural improvements is still incomplete and unavailable to the public, he said.

He asked the county Criminal Justice Committee for $199,000 from the county’s general fund, currently in a deficit, to send about
50 current “extra help” staff to a four-week training program focused specifically on the Youth Services Center from now until June. Each subsequent year, the Probation Department would need about $60,000 to send another 15 extra-help staffers per year to the program.

Buddress defined extra-help staffers, which typically compose 18 percent of a shift’s 55 personnel team, as temporary workers who do not necessarily require the same background as full-time group supervisors.

A June report by the Krisberg-Horsley-Woodford consulting team recommended these extra-help staffers undergo a six-week “core” training that permanent employees receive, but Buddress said it would be more effective to use a special shorter program focused specifically on the Youth Services Center. It would include one week of classroom education and three weeks of on-the-job training, including shadowing of experienced employees, he said.

The probation chief also asked for $50,000 to repair the existing security control system.

Buddress announced his department is also working with human-resources officials to further investigate the consultants’ conclusion that more employees need to be hired to increase shift relief. He also said he would now extend an invitation to San Mateo Highlands Community Association President Cary Wiest to have another community meeting. Wiest, in an interview, said he would accept.

Wiest said he was confident the Probation Department is trying to correct what he called obvious problems with the jail that have sparked deep concerns with residents.

Sheriff Greg Munks said necessary changes for his department, including emergency response, have already been implemented.

mrosenberg@sfexaminer.com

Potential fixes

Probation Department requests made Monday to improve safety at the Youth Services Center.

- $199,000: Staff training for this year

- $60,000: Staff training for each subsequent year

- $50,000: Repair existing security control system

- $25,000: Request bids for future building and grounds improvements

Source: San Mateo County Probation Department

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