Suit alleges systemwide deficiencies lead to mistreatment of prisoners
The Prison Law Office and Disability Rights California attorneys filed a federal law- suit last year alleging mistreatment of inmates and poor jail conditions in the Sacra- mento County jails, according to The Sacramento Bee.
In this lawsuit it is alleged that the county jail is understaffed and fails to provide adequate mental health care for the large percentage of its 3,700 inmates who have a mental illness. Some inmates in a psychiatric crisis are held nearly naked in temporary classrooms. Other such inmates complain they were also placed in cold, filthy concrete cells. There are no real programs in place to accommodate people with such disabilities, nor any real screening processes in place, according to the article.
“These serious problems are longstanding, and are the result of the dangerous overrepresentation of people with mental health needs who are incarcerated at the jail and the County’s failure to provide the resources to deliver clinically necessary treatment to them,” wrote Tifanei Ressl-Moyer, a Disability Rights California attorney. She added, “An adequate remedy will be neither simple nor cheap, but it is urgently needed.”
The county has 20 beds reserved for inmates with mental health care needs.
The deposition suggests that 100 additional beds may be needed.
The county jail hired three correctional experts in 2016 to help remedy the problem. These experts saw that people were often confined to cells for 23 1⁄2 to 24 hours a day with little opportunity for social contact or interaction.
“It is an extreme practice of solitary confinement by any measure,” said Margot Mendelson, an attorney with the Prison Law Office.
“I felt like I was being punished for trying to kill myself,” an inmate said in a written statement. “…If I feel suicidal again, I am not sure that I would tell anyone at the jail. I do not want to go back to the hole.” Once he reported he was suicidal, he wrote, “Deputies placed me naked in a small safety cell that smelled like urine, was filthy, and was freezing. There was no toilet, just a grate in the floor.”
“This harm is too serious and too urgent to wait for the normal course of business,” said Mendelson on the conditions reported at the county jail.
County officials do not dispute these inadequacies. Their own expert witnesses have said the conditions have not yet improved. Attorneys for Disability Rights California are asking for a remedial plan to be put in place, according to the article.
“Unfortunately, the implementation of these changes necessitates substantial resources, and it is solely the Board of Supervisors’ decision whether to supply the resources or litigate the issues,” Sheriff Scott Jones told the Sacramento Bee.