By Debra Moore
Plumas County Sheriff Todd Johns once again asked the Board of Supervisors for help regarding critical staffing issues. While he had some good news to report — two deputy applicants graduated from the academy last week — one came from the jail, where staffing levels are critical.
“Currently I have 12 correctional officers for 24/7 coverage,” he told the supervisors during their Dec. 20 meeting. They are working 12-hour shifts and have been doing so for the past two years. He also has a jail sergeant who is planning to move to dispatch, where staffing levels are also critical.
While the situation is dire overall, Johns said is imminent problem is a lack of female officers to cover the jail, which is necessary when there are female inmates. As a result, he has been contacting neighboring counties to determine the possibility of housing female inmates elsewhere. The county still covers the cost and issues arise when inmates must return to the county for court dates. For example, “If I have a female inmate in Nevada County – we have to go pick them up and then drive them back there,” the Sheriff said. “Only other option is to take a female detective and put her in the jail.”
Johns said that he wasn’t sure that he would have enough staff to cover both the jail and patrol, and said he was having to “pull people out of investigations.” And if they are on the street doing patrol, they can’t be doing critical investigations needed for prosecution.
Johns acknowledged that law enforcement staffing is a statewide crisis, but it doesn’t help that no pay raises are being offered locally. He said that he had just confirmed that only health insurance was discussed in the last round of negotiations, not salaries.
“I am asking for your help if you can,” Johns told the board.
In an ironic twist, Johns also presented the supervisors with a request pertaining to the new jail — authorizing a $24,060.25 payment to PG&E for power connection to the new facility.
The new jail is being built adjacent to the old facility off of Abernethy Lane in East Quincy, and is also bordered by the Little League fields and Public Works.
Plumas County received a state grant of $25 million back in 2017 to build a new jail, and that money is being used to build a scaled back version of the originally planned facility, since construction costs have escalated.
A groundbreaking was held for the facility this past August. Construction is anticipated to take 18 months once the foundation is poured. Sheriff Johns is hopeful that it will be ready for occupancy in the summer of 2024. But will he be able to staff it?
That question was posed to the sheriff following the board meeting. “It depends on if I keep losing staffing or not,” he said. But regardless, construction is underway with the footings being poured and foundation work underway. There is a contract in place to build the correctional facility. Both Johns, and Supervisor Greg Hagwood, when he was sheriff, were optimistic that a new facility would attract more individuals to work there.