ACLU urges court order over ‘miserable’ conditions at LA County jail

Inmates at the Los Angeles County Jail – many with mental health problems – sleep next to urine-soaked floors and are forced to defecate in trash cans, according to shocking claims in a new lawsuit filed by the American Civil Liberties Union.

The group filed a motion for an emergency injunction with U.S. District Judge Dean D. Pregerson on Thursday to urge Los Angeles County Sheriff Alex Villanueva and the LA County Board of Supervisors to review the “miserable” conditions at the inmate reception center of the county jail immediately.

The suit also includes various images showing male inmates sleeping in a fetal position on the concrete floor with no blankets and next to piles of rubbish. Full toilet bowls that cannot be flushed are covered with a t-shirt while inmates try to sleep nearby on dirty metal benches or seats.

“The LA County prison system is a national disgrace,” said Corene Kendrick, associate director of the ACLU National Prison Project. “For nearly 50 years, the prison has been under judicial supervision to provide the most basic minimum standards of hygiene, health care and human decency to those incarcerated there. Enough is enough.”

ACLU attorneys also allege that inmates with serious mental health problems who need medical attention are often chained to chairs for days and forced to sleep sitting up.

A person sleeps under the interview booth.
A person sleeps under the interview booth.
US District Court

The LA County Jail houses more than 14,600 inmates, and the prison’s inmate reception center treats and holds recently arrested individuals while they await more permanent placement at the nation’s largest prison facility.

As part of the emergency motion, the ACLU is asking the court to order the district to limit the admissions process to a maximum of 24 hours.

LA County Sheriff’s officials declined to comment because of the pending litigation.

In a statement to The Post, officials with the LA County Chief Executive Office said the board of directors is working to address the crisis at the jail with the Care First, Jail Last initiative, which focuses on the closure of the Men’s Central Jail and the $288 investment -Dollar concentrates millions on “alternatives” to incarceration.

The alternative program includes building community partnerships with community-based organizations to reduce incarceration in LA County through youth programs, provide mental health programs, and create jobs for incarcerated individuals.

Inmates sleep on the floor next to trash in the Lo Angeles prison.
Inmates sleep on the floor next to garbage in the Los Angeles County Jail.
US District Court

“The Board of Directors has made it clear that we must close the Central Male Prison, and we are working to do so as soon as possible while also building a system of alternatives to incarceration and community-based care,” officials told The Bureau of LA County’s CEO, the Post said.

“But as we work towards these two related goals, we must also face the profound daily challenges of keeping this aging facility at acceptable levels for those who remain in prison. We are committed to this by implementing necessary improvements as quickly as possible.”

While the board this week approved $29.8 million to house inmates struggling with mental health or substance abuse problems who qualify for a diversionary program, ACLU officials said the funding would not be enough to begin immediately Addressing needs of inmates who have been waiting for the prison’s IRC for days.

“County supervisors have long touted a ‘care first, jails last’ approach, but have failed to make meaningful investments in community-based alternatives to incarceration,” said Melissa Camacho-Cheung, lead counsel for ACLU SoCal. “We know what works for our suffering neighbors and family members: community-based programs that provide people with case management, stable housing, medical and mental health care, and support.”

In appalling living conditions, an inmate sleeps on the floor next to garbage.
In appalling living conditions, an inmate sleeps on the floor next to garbage.
US District Court

Supervisor Kathryn Barger said while the board has focused on diversionary programs, more action needs to be taken to create an alternative plan for those still in prison.

“Closing the Central Male Prison without a backup plan is a mistake and a policy direction that I have consistently opposed,” Barger told The Post. “I believe the conditions at the inmate reception center are a direct result of that policy direction and a void it created.”

She added: “My position was and is that we need to invest in a long-term and permanent solution to replace the Central Male Prison. Our incarceration model is outdated and needs to be replaced with a state-of-the-art facility staffed with highly qualified professionals who can provide essential substance abuse and mental health treatment. This is the direction that will lead us toward a more humane environment for those in our justice system who cannot be distracted.”

According to the ACLU indictment, inmates died while waiting at the county jail’s inmate reception center. A man died in April after he was found unresponsive, while a 72-year-old man being held on IRC without medical attention collapsed and died after two days.

IRC Clinic from the side.
Crowded conditions at Los Angeles County Jail IRC.
US District Court

Celia Banos, whose son Jhean was diagnosed with schizophrenia, said her son had been held at the county jail’s inmate reception center for more than four days.

Jhean Banos had various cuts and bruises on his wrist from being tied up for more than 99 hours.

“My son’s sanity is not a crime,” Celia Banos said. “Rather than giving him the treatment he needs from healthcare professionals, the county resorts to locking him up without care and without his medication.”

According to the ACLU suit, inmates spend between 49 and 200 hours being killed or treated.

“The late summer numbers show a long-standing problem that’s spiraling out of control,” lawyers for the ACLU said. ACLU urges court order over ‘miserable’ conditions at LA County jail


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