Sacramento County Jail’s overcrowded conditions and poor track record of helping detainees with mental health problems has been linked to increased crime in the downtown area, according to Marcos Breton of The Sacramento Bee.
In an op-ed, Breton raises the question: “What happens to the surrounding community when jail prisoners subjected to this mistreatment walk out of the jail and into the heart of downtown Sacramento?”
The main jail is releasing prisoners from all over the county into the downtown area and many of them are homeless and have mental health problems.
“This has made the hideous, eight-story building in downtown Sacramento, which recently housed between approximately 1,800 to 2,300 inmates, a vortex of societal ills,” Breton’s article stated. The jail is designed to hold 1,250 prisoners but has housed up to 2,300.
In 2018 a lawsuit claiming that medical care, mental health services, suicide prevention, and a host of other services provided at the jail were inadequate. The suit resulted in a settlement and consent decree.
Lawyers representing prisoners have alerted county officials that the jail has failed to comply with the decree, said the article.
The downtown jail is also not in compliance with the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990 or the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act of 1996, the article said.
“The jail has been hopelessly out of compliance with both laws for years with no hope in sight of improvement,” said Breton.
Aaron Fischer, an East Bay-based lawyer working to improve jails in California, said “The Sacramento County Jail is in many ways unique in the harshness of its conditions of confinement.
“The jail holds people with significant mental health needs that are counter-therapeutic and harmful. It’s a nightmare for our clients, and it’s a nightmare for staff members whose job it is to provide adequate care.”
Many prisoners being released are homeless, mentally ill, addicted to drugs and in many cases worse off after leaving the jail than when they went in, the article said.
Last September, Kate Tibbitts was attacked and killed in her home. Troy Davis, a 51-year-old homeless parolee, was charged with her murder. The killing triggered vigorous debate about the release of suspects from jail without bail.
Sacramento County Sheriff Scott Jones wrote on Facebook “(Kate) did not have to die … The suspect was arrested this summer for a felony and then unceremoniously released under the darling of social justice warriors — ‘zero-bail.’ Let me be clear where the blame lies — liberal, anti-public safety policies.”
But Spokeswoman Kim Pederson said, “The court’s bail schedule calls for $50,000 bail for that charge, but no one in the sheriff’s office called the court before releasing Davis without bail.”
The fury over Tibbitts’ death “overlooked the simple danger the jail poses to the prisoners it incarcerates and, regardless of the bail, to the safety of Sacramento residents once those prisoners are released,” said the op-ed.
The overarching issue is still the danger to inmates, jail workers and citizens that will be impacted by the deficiencies of the downtown jail, according to Breton.