Grand jury: Tahoe courthouse needs prisoner holding cell |

Grand jury: Tahoe courthouse needs prisoner holding cell

William Ferchland

A grand jury’s recommendation to boost security at El Dorado County Superior Court in South Lake Tahoe by building a holding cell might be wishful thinking, according to officials.

A section in the 2005-06 El Dorado County grand jury report noted several holes in security at courthouses.

For South Lake Tahoe, grand jury members mentioned how jail inmates pass through public hallways on their way to the courthouse. The inmates are handcuffed and sometimes restrained by ankle shackles and under the supervision of an accompanying sheriff’s deputy.

Stephen Cascioppo, court executive officer, believes a holding cell wouldn’t be feasible.

“We would love one, but I don’t think the building is set up for it,” he said.

Sheriff’s Lt. Randy Peshon said the South Lake Tahoe courthouse had two holding cells but they didn’t meet certain requirements – such as having adequate water, toilet facilities and space – and were converted to copy machine rooms.

Only one county courtroom, Department 7 at 2850 Fairlane Court in Placerville, has holding cells for inmates, Cascioppo said.

Despite its holding cells, the grand jury identified security deficiencies in Department 7. Metal detectors are used only when court is in session.

“The unscreened access beyond the metal detector is still accessible when court is closed,” the report stated. “A weapon could be hidden in this area while court is closed and then retrieved later when court is in session.”

The report also noted Department 8, in the same building as Department 7, has no metal detector.

“Department 8 is not a criminal court, but does have family court and traffic court hearings, both potentially volatile situations,” the report stated.

Cascioppo said another deputy was added to the tentative budget to patrol the two departments in the building and help screen the entryway.

Undersheriff Fred Kollar said talking about a holding cell in the South Lake Tahoe courthouse is on his list of topics when meeting with general services next week.

“I understand why they said what they said and their assessment is correct,” Kollar said. “We have to walk inmates through an employee area.”

Cascioppo said transporting inmates to the courthouse at 495 Main St. is worse than South Lake Tahoe.

Inmates have to be driven to the rear of the Main Street courthouse in Placerville and escorted inside.

“Tahoe is not as bad as Main Street, but it is less than ideal for the circulation of inmates,” he said.

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