In December 1972, prisoners at the Santa Cruz County Jail filed a class action lawsuit in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California, challenging their conditions of confinement. The plaintiffs, represented by Community Advocates Legal Aid Society of Santa Cruz County, Public Advocates, Inc., and California Rural Legal Assistance Cooperative Legal Services Center, brought suit under 42 U.S.C. § 1983, claiming their Eight and Fourteenth Amendment rights were being violated. Specifically, they complained of overcrowding, improper prisoner classification, inadequate medical care, prisoner discipline without due process, inadequacy of the law library, inadequate visitation policies, and a variety of safety and sanitation defects.
In September 1974, the State Fire Marshall ordered the Sheriff to vacate the basement, first, and second floors of the jail, claiming that the offices posed a fire threat to the third floor.
On October 5, 1975, the District Court granted plaintiffs' motion for partial summary judgment on the issues of the right to security, privacy and humane treatment and ordered the County it to institute a meaningful classification system, provide reasonable facilities for exercise and recreation, create and maintain a safe and sanitary environment, and employ sufficient numbers of qualified staff. It also granted plaintiffs summary judgment on the issues of lack of attorney-client confidentiality within the jail and failure to meet the requirements of due process. It granted the County summary judgment on the issue of conjugal visits, and declined to rule one way or the other on the issues of general visitation and access to the courts.
On July 15, 1976, the Court (Judge Robert F. Peckham) ordered the County to take immediate action to reduce overcrowding and set a population cap. The Court also ordered several safety and health defects be remedied, and appointed a special master "to conduct hearings and make findings and recommendations concerning classification, exercise, recreation, staffing, attorney-client confidentiality, medical care, access to the courts, visitation, disciplinary procedures, and a safe and healthful environment." 10 Clearinghouse Rev. 398.
In response to the population cap, the Sheriff entered into an agreement with the San Francisco County Sheriff to house some Santa Cruz prisoners at its San Bruno Facility.
On December 10, 1976, the Court issued consent orders governing the jail's classification system and medical facilities and services; the County was required, among other things, to provide adequate medical, dental and psychiatric care.
On October 27, 1978, the Court entered final judgment in the case and issued specific orders regarding (1) overcrowding, (2) institution of a classification system, (3) necessary medical care; (4) jail disciplinary procedures, (5) provision and use of a law library, and (6) contact visitation. It also awarded the plaintiffs $1,394.87 in damages. The Court retained jurisdiction in the case until a new jail was constructed and the old jail ceased to house inmates, in the mid-1980s.Christopher Schad - 08/20/2012