This is a lawsuit filed in the Superior Court of California for the County of Santa Barbara by prisoners in the Santa Barbara County Main Jail against the County Sheriff, challenging their conditions of confinement. The plaintiffs, represented by the Santa Barbara Public Defender's Office and private counsel, alleged overly crowded conditions in violation of the constitution and sought injunctive relief.
On August 2, 1988, the Court (Judge William J. Gordon) entered an order authorizing the Sheriff to institute an early release program, and directed the Jail Overcrowding Task Force, a group created by the Sheriff in 1985 to look into procedures and polices that might alleviate overcrowding, to prepare a report with specific recommendations regarding such options as expanding the Bail/Own Recognizance Unit, expanding the parole program, house arrests, and clearing outside agency holds.
On February 13, 1989, the Court (Judge Gordon) issued a detailed order to the Sheriff requiring the implementation of a number of measures to reduce jail overcrowding. These measures included an expanded field cite release program; sending inmates to the Honor Farm; making facility modifications to the Honor Farm; expanding the Own Recognizance units' staff; expanding the County parole program; proceeding with plans for facilities and development programs; and completing the planning and construction of a new reception center at the Main Jail.
On February 23, 1990, the Court limited the number of female inmates to a maximum of 65 individuals; this was adjusted upwards to a maximum of 99 people on January 24, 1996, as a result of additional beds being added to the jail's basement dormitory.
On September 22, 1998, the Court (Judge Gordon) ordered that within one year, there must be a reduction in the number of inmates in the male portion of the Main Jail from 702 to 587, with 587 being the new cap on the number of inmates. To ensure that the cap was not exceeded, the Court imposed a "flex" cap of 530 inmates. At any time that the male inmate population reached 530 individuals, the Sheriff was authorized to impose release criteria to ensure that the capacity did not exceed 587 inmates. (This Order came more than two years after the Sheriff's Department argued against imposing a cap and instead allowing it to address the jail overcrowding issue in other ways, such as those provided by the February 13, 1989 Order.)
On September 7, 1999, the Court modified the early release program to require prisoners eligible for early release to participate in an alternative program, such as electronic monitoring, parole, or the Sheriff's Work Alternative Program; failure of a prisoner to agree to participate in an alternative program would result in the prisoner being passed over for early release. The female prisoner cap was increased by 2 and male prisoner cap was increased by 18.
On December 29, 1999, the Court amended its prior orders of September 22, 1998, and September 7, 1999, to allow the Sheriff to exceed the flex cap in times of emergency, including incidents causing mass bookings at the jail. In such instances of emergency, the Sheriff would not be required to immediately release prisoners as would have been required under the previous orders.
In April 2001, the flex cap was reduced from 548 to 520 inmates.
On May 24, 2005, the Court (Judge Brian E. Hill) changed the booking criteria at the Main Jail; authorized all pre-trial, post-arraignment misdemeanor prisoners who met specified criteria to be released into the electronic monitoring program or to be issued a citation release; and authorized the reconfiguration of the Main Jail dormitory spaces to add 44 male beds, for a total of 649 beds.
Later in 2005, the County issued a study recommending the construction of a new jail to ease the still-pressing overcrowding problem at the Main Jail. As of the date of this summary, there is no evidence that this new jail was constructed, and we have no information on further orders of the Court.
(This summary is adapted in large part from the discussion of court orders in the County of Santa Barbara's New Jail Planning Study
.)Christopher Schad - 07/20/2012