Has San Diego County sheriff Bill Gore been playing fast and loose with cash held for inmates at the county's seven detention facilities, including East Mesa, Facility 8, George Bailey, Las Colinas, South Bay, Vista, and San Diego Central Jail?
So says a recently released report by county auditors highly critical of the cash-handling procedures of the sheriff's department inside the walls of the county’s sprawling jail complex, which has an average daily population of 5500.
"The Sheriff’s Department maintains the Inmate Trust Fund to account for funds belonging to inmates that are incarcerated," explains the audit, dated May 9.
"When booked, an account is established for each inmate in the Jail Information Management System with any money on their person when processed through intake. Family members are allowed to deposit funds into the inmate’s account….
"Inmates receive basic hygiene items free of charge when booked into Sheriff’s custody," the document continues. "If they have money on their accounts, they may choose to purchase additional items through the jail commissary….
“Deductions to inmate accounts are made for commissary purchases, such as writing supplies, hygiene items, and snacks," the audit recounts. "Any unused funds, as well as all their stored property items, are returned to the inmate upon release from custody."
But the chances of prisoners getting any refunds from the sheriff's kitty upon their departure from jail are greatly lessened by Gore's mixed-up accounting and the chronic failure of his deputies to make daily deposits of funds left in badly monitored safes, the report says.
"The daily inmate cash receipts and cash reserves are commingled once placed in the safe," auditors found. "There is insufficient reconciliation to identify the amount of cash receipts, cash disbursements, and cash deposits by each employee processing intakes and releases….
"Consequently, the detention facilities are unable to ensure the integrity and completeness of cash received, cash deposited into the bank, and cash left in the safe."
Compounding the risk to the funds has been the failure by deputies to regularly send the stash to the bank, as required by law.
"Inmate cash receipts are not deposited daily," according to the audit. "For instance, deposit of inmate cash received at the Vista Detention Facility is processed on Mondays and Wednesdays. Further, the deposit of cash bail is not processed every day even though the bank courier service goes to each facility on a daily basis….
"As a result, large amounts of cash could be left in the safe overnight increasing the risk of cash being lost, misplaced, or misappropriated."
Rogue sheriff staffers may be tempted to take advantage of weak controls over the jailhouse money, the auditors concluded.
"Safe activity logs do not include the full name of the staff accessing the safe," the report says. "In addition, there is no monitoring or review of the safe activity logs to ensure appropriateness and completeness."
In addition, Gore's department has failed to turn over, or "escheat," a major sum of allegedly unclaimed prisoner cash to the county treasury, as required by law.
"The Sheriff’s Department FSD has not escheated over $57K of unclaimed inmate funds maintained in dormant accounts since FY 2002–03," according to the audit. "Management stated that since FY 2011–12 the escheatment of unclaimed funds slowed down because of turnover of key staff and new staff needing to be trained."
A May 9 memo from Gore to county chief of audits Juan Perez acknowledged the audit's findings and promised to fix the problems.