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October 29, 2015
Pat McConahay, Communications Director
Disability Rights California
Disability Rights California releases report finding excessive solitary confinement and inadequate mental health care in Sacramento County Jail
Sheriff agrees to some reforms – but more are needed
Sacramento, October 29, 2015 – Disability Rights California (DRC) released a report criticizing the Sacramento County Jail for its treatment of prisoners with disabilities. According to the report (http://www.disabilityrightsca.org/pubs/702701.pdf), prisoners with mental health needs are subjected to excessive isolation and solitary confinement, and are denied basic mental health care.
DRC found many prisoners are held in small cells for 22 to 24 hours a day, with only a few hours of out-of-cell time per week. The jail does not exclude prisoners with mental health disabilities from these harsh conditions, which resulted in two recent deaths.
“Prolonged time in solitary confinement, especially for prisoners with mental health disabilities, damages them psychologically,” said DRC attorney Anne Hadreas. “Confining them to small cells for so many hours a day also violates the Americans with Disabilities Act, or ADA, and constitutional protections against cruel and unusual punishment.”
The report stems from inspection visits DRC made to two Sacramento jail facilities on April 13 and 14, 2015. DRC has authority under state and federal law to investigate any facility in California in which people with disabilities are housed or detained.
DRC brought in the Prison Law office (PLO), a nonprofit public interest law firm, to help with the investigations. “The U.N. recently concluded holding prisoners in these conditions for more than two weeks at a time amounts to torture, and called for an end to this practice,” said PLO attorney Kelly Knapp.
The Sheriff agreed to correct some violations of the ADA, and to appoint a new ADA coordinator, as well as make improvements to physical accessibility. DRC hopes to collaborate with the county to reduce excessive solitary confinement and improve mental health care. These changes will reduce recidivism and make the jail a safer environment for prisoners and staff.
DRC is conducting similar investigations of three additional jails and two juvenile halls throughout California. Reports on these additional findings will be issued by the end of the year.