On May 8, 2013, three prisoners in Riverside county jails filed this class-action lawsuit in the US District Court for the Central District of California. The plaintiffs sued the County of Riverside (California) under 42 U.S.C. § 1983. The plaintiffs alleged that the access to both physical and mental healthcare was so deficient that it violated the Eighth Amendment proscription of cruel and unusual punishment, violated prisoners' Fourteenth Amendment rights, and constituted deliberate indifference to prisoners' health needs. The class was subdivided into two subclasses, termed the Medical Subclass and the Mental Health Subclass, though the classes were not mutually exclusive. Represented by the Prison Law Office, the plaintiffs sought attorneys' fees, declaratory relief, and an injunction requiring the county to develop a plan to address the deficiencies of its jails' healthcare system and to provide at least minimally adequate health care.
According to the plaintiffs, some prisoners were told that doctors would only see those with court orders and that Sheriffs' deputies sometimes refused to provide forms. Prisoners had no other way to acquire or file forms. The plaintiffs alleged that in order to get access to healthcare they frequently needed to get court orders, file grievances, and file Health Need Requests (which cost $3), all of which they said were frequently ignored.
By California state law a grand jury evaluates county jails every year. The June 14, 2012, Riverside County Grand Jury Report stated "In July, 2011, DMH was advised. . . .that the medical/mental health staffing levels in county jails needed to be restored to 2007 levels, in order to be in compliance with [state law]. As of this writing, the Grand Jury learned through sworn testimony that during the eight months following the 2010-2011 Grand Jury report, DMH staffing levels were allowed to decrease even further." As of May 31, 2012, only two of the five full-time physician positions in the jails were filled, and the county had multiple vacancies for nurses and nurse supervisors; only 65 of 101 total Detention Health Services positions were filled. Because of these vacancies, the plaintiffs alleged, medication distribution was erratic and doses were often supplied at irregular times or missed entirely. The plaintiffs also alleged that many prisoners received psychotropic drugs when their medical records were illegible or contained no treatment plan, monitoring, or other indications the treatment with the drugs was necessary, and sometimes with no record of informed consent.
On April 30, 2013, the plaintiffs filed an amended complaint adding a fourth named plaintiff. On August 20, 2014 the plaintiffs filed a second amended complaint adding factual allegations and plaintiffs. 2014 WL 5304915 (C.D. Cal. Sept. 2, 2014).
On September 2, 2015, Judge Virginia Phillips granted the plaintiffs' motion for class certification and denied the defendants' motion to dismiss. The defendants wanted to appeal the class certification, but Judge Phillips denied the petition for permission to appeal order granting class action certification.
As of October 15, 2015, the case is ongoing.Kenneth Gray - 06/26/2013
Jessica Kincaid - 10/15/2015