Our survey of adults in custody found issues that the Sheriff's Office should examine
The Auditor’s Office created a survey for adults in custody and we had it translated into six different languages in addition to English (Arabic, Simplified Chinese, Russian, Somali, Spanish, and Vietnamese). Mental health consultants who work in the jails distributed paper surveys to all adults in custody. Corrections deputies did not have access to the surveys. We did not collect names on the surveys, but we did ask for demographic information.
The response rate was 74%, with 567 adults in custody completing the survey. This gives us a high degree of accuracy (95% confidence interval and a 2.1% error level). In previous sections of this report, we discussed the results of the survey as they relate to safety, fairness, and use of force. Other themes that appeared in the survey included food concerns, access to medication, and assistance with drug or alcohol dependency. We are reporting the survey results to give a voice to those who took the survey. However, due to COVID-19, we were unable to go into the jails to verify claims.
Mental health medication
One theme that came up in the survey was that about half of those needing mental health medication said that they did not get it in a timely fashion or at all. Of those who said they needed mental health medication, 23% said it took more than 5 days to get their medication, and 30% said they never got their medication. When we spoke with Corrections Health staff, they said that they try to get adults in custody their medication within a day whenever possible.
Many adults in custody said they did not get their mental health medication
Survey question: “If you were taking medication for a mental health condition when you came to the jail, how long after you were in jail did you get your medication?”
Our survey also asked adults in custody if they know how to access mental health care in jail, and 76% said that they do.
Some representative examples of written comments from the survey related to mental health medication include:
“it took way to long to get mental health meds, like a month and I'm severly mentally ill”
“It takes to long to recieve help for mental health issues. If you mention that you were having these, they always cuff you up and take you immediately to suicide watch. This makes it hard to want to seek out help if you were having problems.”
“Mental Health was a very slow process in jail. I have observed MANY inmates (AICs) reach their breaking point while in quarantine and actually yell out "HELP" in their cells until being sent to disciplinary or being verbally or physically attacked by staff or other inmates (AICs) Last time I was here it took me 2+ months to get my PTSD meds!”
“I've got mental health issues and am on certain medications for nightmares and have not received my medication. My nightmares cause thoughts of suicide and I dont feel its fair that I have to go through that”
Physical health medication
The survey results showed that 43% of those needing physical health medication said that they did not get it in a timely fashion or at all. Of those who said they needed physical health medication, 21% said it took more than 5 days to get their medication, and 23% said they never got their medication. Corrections Health staff said that they do decline to fill some prescriptions, such as opioids.
Some adults in custody said they did not get their physical health medication
Survey question: “If you were taking medication for a physical health condition when you came to the jail, how long after you were in jail did you get your medication?”
Our survey also asked adults in custody if they know how to access physical health care in jail, and 78% said that they do.
Drug and alcohol support
Our survey found that 58% of adults in custody felt that they struggle with drugs or alcohol. Of those, 25% found help with their addiction while in jail. The remainder either did not get help or never asked for help. Part of this may be due to the short duration of many people’s stay in jail.
Only 25% of those struggling with drug or alcohol addiction said they got help while in jail
Survey question: “How do people who work in the jail respond to drug or alcohol struggles?”
Some representative examples of written comments from the survey related to drugs and alcohol include:
“Need to be more concerned with alcoholics and addicts and their well-being during 1st 30 days”
“Need to help heroin addicts get on suboxin or something to help with detox, cravings, and keep them from using heroin in the jail.”
“Although conditions were better for opiate addicts coming to jail, there was still much more that can be done besides a very aggressive taper off suboxone/bupenorphine - and that was if you can score high enough to be lucky enough to get it. Usually its just a cold turkey miserable experience. Just because we struggle with addiction doest make us less.”
Ability to report safety issues and wrong-doing
We asked two questions about the availability of staff to talk to. In the first question, adults in custody were nearly evenly split in feeling like they have someone to talk to if they feel unsafe. In the second question, more than half of adults in custody feel that they do not know who to talk to for reporting wrong-doing.
About half of adults in custody said they do not know who to talk to if they feel unsafe
Survey question: “Do you know of any people who work in the jail you can talk to if you do not feel safe?”
More than half of adults in custody said they do not know where to report wrong-doing by deputies
Survey question: “Are there any people who work in the jail you can talk to if you see corrections deputies doing something wrong?”
We did not ask any questions about food in the survey, but several people specifically mentioned concerns about food. In the last question of the survey we asked, “Is there anything you want to tell us about health care, mental health care, addictions support, safety, rules, solitary confinement, or physical force in jail?”
Of those who answered this question, 9% of the comments were related to food. These are examples of food related comments:
“We were constantly underfed & fed rotten potatoes, burnt patties & chicken nuggets, over boiled vegetables, raw & freezer burnt rolls, cold food & half portions of food, many times if something was missing off your tray the deputy will refuse to get a replacement from the kitchen.”
“The food here was terrible. The Oregon State Constitution says prisoners will be provided with wholesome food, the inmate handbook says "nutritionally adequate." This was a big difference. We never get fresh fruit.”
“They (aramark) served us no fresh fruits or vegitables 99.9% of the time”
Praise for staff
Some survey respondents praised jail staff. Some representative examples of written comments from the survey related to positive staff interactions include
“Most of the staff here were pretty good - professional and show a normal and decent concern for people regardless of being in trouble with the courts and in jail. Medical was very good”
“I have literally seen an officer be calm when slapped/swung at. the counselors here were awesome & the nurses were super kind. I like how they offer the homeless shelter cards & food & talk to them before they leave, & its a really amazing thing.”
“Health care overall does a great job”
Denied attorney calls
A few adults in custody said it was challenging to get in touch with their attorneys. The following were survey quotes related to this:
“I have been denied my incoming attorney phone calls multipule time. It take sometimes a week for Attorney's to get in contact with their clients.”
“Attorney phone calls being denied due to lack of staff members. that shouldn't be handled like that and attorneys were being told we're locked down because of an incident. that needs to stop our well being was on the line we need those calls.”
“Deputies deny us attorny phones call that were coming-in to this facility.”