On June 6, 1996, the United States Department of Justice (DOJ) notified Los Angeles County that it intended to investigate conditions in the Los Angeles County Jail system pursuant to the Civil Rights of the Institutionalized Persons Act (CRIPA), 42 U.S.C. § 1997 et seq. In August of 1996, the DOJ toured the Los Angeles County Jail (the Jail) with correctional mental health experts. The investigation found that the jail was failing to provide care meeting constitutional standards to mentally ill inmates. On September 5, 1997, the DOJ issued a letter reporting its findings based on the tour, the County's response to the tour, and additional information. The DOJ concluded that mental health care at the Jail violated the inmates' constitutional rights.
The DOJ's findings report detailed numerous alleged constitutional deficiencies with regard to mental health care, including inadequate: (1) intake screening and evaluation, (2) diagnosis, (3) referral to mental health professionals, (4) treatment plans, (5) administration of medications, (6) suicide prevention, (7) tracking and medical record keeping, (8) staffing, (9) communication, and (10) quality assurance. The report also noted that mentally ill inmates were abused through excessive force and improper restraint.
The report included a list of recommended remedial measures addressing the screening and treating of mentally ill inmates. The recommendations also included providing adequate and sanitary conditions for mentally ill inmates, providing access to recreation and other privileges, and promptly investigating reports of mistreatment or abuse of mentally ill prisoners. Other recommendations addressed record-keeping systems and suicide watch procedures.
On December 19, 2002, the parties reached a Memorandum of Agreement that required adequate mental health care and suicide and prevention at the Los Angeles County Jail System. The Agreement stated that: (1) all inmates are to be screened for mental illness upon intake to the Jail; (2) all inmates who may be mentally ill are to be referred to a mental health professional, and the County should provide adequate mental health treatment, including medication; (3) all inmates under suicide watch are to be evaluated by a mental health professional; and (4) detailed medical records with regard to mental health are to be kept. Also, the County is to provide sufficient mental health staffing to ensure timely access to adequate mental health treatment. Finally, the County must implement and document a continuous quality improvement program for mental health services, specifying the procedures to medical and administrative review for various events, such as suicides and attempted suicides.
On June 4, 2014, the DOJ issued a letter stating that, since the entry of the Memorandum of Agreement twelve years before, there had been significant improvement in the delivery of mental health services. However, serious systemic deficiencies remained with regard to some aspects of the Jails' mental health program.
In September 2013, the DOJ had opened a separate investigation of the Jails under CRIPA and 42 U.S.C. § 14141 to address allegations of use of excessive force against all prisoners at the Jails, not just prisoners with mental illness. During the course of the investigation, the County and the Sheriff entered into a comprehensive settlement agreement to resolve Rosas v. McDonnell, JC-CA-0073
, in this Clearinghouse. Rosas was a class action lawsuit alleging abuse and excessive force by staff at certain Jails located in downtown Los Angeles. As part of the Rosas settlement agreement, the County and the Sheriff agreed to implement significant measures to protect prisoners from excessive force by staff, including improvements in policies, training, incident tracking and reporting, investigations, resolution of prisoner grievances, prisoner and staff supervision, and accountability.
The allegations concerning suicide prevention and mental health care at the Jails resulting from the partial implementation of the 2002 MOA and current conditions within the Jails remained after that settlement agreement. To address these issues the parties developed another settlement agreement. On August 5, 2015, the government filed this lawsuit against the County in the U.S. District Court for the Central District of California, under CRIPA and the Violent Crime Control and Law Enforcement Act of 1994, 42 U.S.C. § 14141. On the same day the Complaint was filed, the government and the County filed a stipulated settlement.
The now-court-enforceable settlement agreement provided for a series of new or enhanced policies and practices intended to ensure that the County would provide safe and secure conditions and ensure the inmates' reasonable safety from harm, including serious risk from self-harm and excessive force, and ensure adequate treatment for their serious mental health needs. The agreement also extended the remedial measures in the Implementation Plan of the Rosas settlement agreement to fully resolve the DOJ’s CRIPA findings regarding alleged mistreatment of prisoners with mental illness and claims under Section 14141 regarding alleged excessive force against prisoners at all of the Jails.
On September 3, 2015, Judge Dean D. Pregerson approved the settlement agreement.
On September 28, 2015, individuals with mental illnesses and disabilities whom Los Angeles County frequently cycles between its jails and streets sought to intervene in this matter arguing that paragraph 34 of the settlement agreement, covering discharge procedures, violated the Americans with Disabilities Act, and their Fourth and Eighth Amendment rights. The individuals alleged that Paragraph 34 facially discriminated against disabled prisoners whose disability stemmed from personality disorders, substance abuse and dependence disorders, dementia, or developmental disabilities, as well as all disabled prisoners who spend seven days or fewer in jail. The individuals further alleged that Paragraph 34's discharge procedures were inadequate, as many disabled prisoners would be unable to obtain needed medication or services if provided with nothing more than a prescription or list of referrals upon discharge.
On December 15, 2015, Judge Pregerson granted the motion to intervene. 2015 WL 8783449. On January 14, 2016, the individuals filed their amended complaint. As of February 4, 2016, litigation continues and the parties are working to resolve the deficiencies in the settlement agreement. David Terry - 03/08/2006
Jessica Kincaid - 02/04/2016