A Mission Valley mental health clinic treating federal prison inmates has been operating steps away from a talent school, exposing unknowing neighborhood children to the risk of contacts with sex offenders, says a recently released audit report by the Department of Justice's Office of the Inspector General.
"During our site visit, we heard children multiple times from the business operating next door to Pacific Forensic," says the report regarding the clinic, which operates under contract to the federal Bureau of Prisons.
"We walked around the office building where Pacific Forensic was located, and noted that a talent school operated one floor below and that the business front had pictures of children posted on it. Additionally, we observed a child walking alone in the corridor of the office building. Pacific Forensic’s Director stated that inmates did walk up to its third-floor office space unescorted. "
Adds the report, "Based on the safety issues we observed, we informed [Bureau of Prisons] officials in January 2017 that we found it concerning that Pacific Forensic was operating in a building with so much activity from children."
"BOP did not have procedures to notify Pacific Forensic that sex offenders were being referred for [Community Treatment Services], and the BOP did not ensure that the contractor’s facility met safety requirements and had safety procedures for handling sex offender inmates before referring the inmates to the contractor’s facility."
Per the document, released September 24, "Pacific Forensic is a privately held mental health service provider specializing in the assessment and treatment of clinical-forensic populations and others with behavioral and mental health issues."
The audit reports that the company's San Diego clinic, which operates out of a third-floor suite in an office building at 2667 Camino Del Rio South under the name Sharper Future, has received more than $3 million from taxpayers from October 2009 through the end of 2016. Downstairs, according to its website, is Tower Talent Studio West.
In a May 28 letter responding to the auditors' findings, Sharper Future director Robert Cureton blamed prison officials for lack of notification regarding potentially dangerous felons. "The document indicates that Sharper Future did not have a procedure in place for inmates coming and going to its facility who may pose a risk to the public, such as sex offender inmates. It must be re-emphasized that Sharper Future was not informed of any inmates having sex offenses," wrote Cureton.
"It is noted that the location of the treatment facility met San Diego zoning requirements for the conduct of sex offender services and that the site was pre-approved for the conduct of sex offender treatment by a review of the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation."
The letter adds, "Unless a participant is deemed a Sexually Violent Predator, sex offenders are not barred from travel in California so long as they inform and are registered and approved by their supervising agent. That being said, if we were informed of a sex offender who has a history of risk to children we would take appropriate steps to reduce any identified risk."
The audit says that in the future, the prisons bureau intends "to implement procedures to ensure adequate inmate treatment summaries are provided to contractors, including past criminal offenses that could pose a public safety to the public."
The matter will be resolved, says the report, "when we receive evidence that the BOP's contractor monitoring includes: ((a)) determining if the contractor's facility is operating within the same space or close proximity to a business that caters to children; and if so, (b) ensuring that the contractor has procedures in place to mitigate such risks."
The audit report calls out a series of accounting deficiencies and staffing issues, including what it says is the government's failure to monitor its contractor-provided treatment programs. "We determined that Pacific Forensic lacked the proper internal controls to ensure that its contractual obligations to the BOP were being fulfilled. As a result, we identified $22,168 in questioned costs."
Per the document, the Bureau of Prisons "does not require contractors to submit performance metrics on its CTS program, and does not track the outcomes of the program's stated goals."