[Santa Barbara County] Grand jury investigates death and contraband in county jail


Pursuant to California Penal Code§ 919(b) the Santa Barbara County Grand Jury (Jury) is vested with express authority to examine into the “condition and management” of the prisons in the county. Included within the broad scope of this statutory power is the ability of the Jury, in the exercise of its to determine, how effectively the Sheriff’s Department is performing in preventing the introduction of “contraband” items into the jails.

Contraband can take many forms, ranging from knives, guns and other items which can be “weaponized” (like wood or metal objects), to cellular phones, currency, cigarette lighters, matches, tobacco, drugs and alcohol. Accordingly, based upon its statutory authority under §919(b) the 2018-2019 Jury undertook to assess how successful the Sheriff’s Department has been both in intercepting attempts to introduce contraband in to the Santa Barbara County Main Jail (Main Jail) and in discovering and confiscating illegal articles if they later are found within the facility itself. The Jury determined that the introduction of contraband into the Main Jail continues to be a problem. The Jury recommends more thorough “pat down” searches at intake, the purchase of another drug sniffing dog, and purchase of an x-ray body scanner for use at the Main Jail. The entire report, “Contraband in the Main Jail,” can be found on the Grand Jury’s website at www.sbcgj.org.


Pursuant to the provisions of California Penal Code §919(b) the Santa Barbara County Grand Jury (Jury) is vested with the discretionary authority to, “inquire into the condition and management of the public prisons within the county”. In exercising that authority, the Jury historically has determined to review the circumstances surrounding inmate deaths occurring while they were in the custody of the Santa Barbara County Sheriff’s Department.

This Activity Report addresses the Jury’s inquiry into the death of one such inmate, HJA, who suffered from multiple chronic medical conditions and died at Cottage Hospital I in March 2018. Based upon its review, the Jury has concluded that HJA’s death was attributable to natural causes and no further action is required.

June 9, 2019

Santa Barbara Edhat

Source: Santa Barbara County Grand Jury