Mays v. County of Sacramento
On July 31, 2018, DRC and co-counsel Prison Law Office filed a federal class action lawsuit on behalf of prisoners in Sacramento County’s jails, claiming that conditions at the jail do not meet minimum standards under the U.S. Constitution as well as federal and state disability law.
On July 31, 2018, DRC and co-counsel filed a federal class action lawsuit on behalf of prisoners in Sacramento County’s jails, claiming that conditions at the jail do not meet minimum standards under the U.S. Constitution as well as federal and state disability law.
The lawsuit alleges that the County fails to provide basic mental health and medical care to the jail’s prisoners, imposes harsh and extreme solitary confinement conditions on hundreds of people (including a disproportionately high number with mental illness), and discriminates against people with disabilities. The lack of care and failure to meet minimum legal standards has led to unnecessary and avoidable suffering, injury, and even death for people with disabilities at the jail. The lawsuit seeks significant reforms to improve jail conditions and to end the violation of the rights of people with mental illness and other disabilities.
Case Name: Mays et al. v. County of Sacramento
Co-Counsel: Prison Law Office, Cooley LLP
On May 27, 2020, DRC and co-counsel sent to Sacramento County a Notice of Dispute about deficiencies regarding the Jail’s COVID-19 response. First, DRC objected to the Sheriff’s Department failure to require Sheriff’s deputy Jail staff to wear face coverings in the Jail facilities to protect people incarcerated at the Jail from COVID-19 transmission and infection. Second, DRC objected to the conditions of confinement, including the denial of showers, for people incarcerated at the Jail while quarantined as a new booking or based on symptoms or possible exposure to COVID-19.
Court-appointed medical experts completed a report strongly recommending that all Jail staff be required to wear face coverings in the Jail facilities. On June 18, 2020, DRC and co-counsel secured a Memorandum of Agreement by which Jail staff will be required to wear face coverings in the Jail facilities. The Jail has also agreed to provide additional showers for people held in the Jail’s quarantined units.
- SETTLEMENT AGREEMENT: Face Coverings for Staff as Precaution Against COVID-19 Transmission in Sacramento County Jail - 6/18/20
- Sheriff’s Directive: Intake Observation and Isolation Showers - 6/1/20
Class Counsel Letter to County re: Urgent Need for Action at Jail in Response to COVID-19 Pandemic - 03/18/20
Class Counsel Letter to Sheriff Jones re: Reducing Jail Population to Protect People from COVID-19 Pandemic - 3/23/20
Information about Class Settlement and Consent Decree
Disability Rights California, Prison Law Office, and Cooley LLP have reached a settlement agreement with Sacramento County. The settlement is contained in a Consent Decree, under which Sacramento County has agreed to remedy illegal and dangerous conditions in its jails, including those related to the treatment of people with disabilities, the provision of mental health and medical care, suicide prevention, and the use of solitary confinement. The federal court approved the Consent Decree on January 13, 2020. Plaintiffs’ class counsel and court-appointed experts will be monitoring implementation of the Consent Decree.
Order Granting Final Approval of Class Action Settlement, 01/13/20 (pdf)
Consent Decree (pdf)
Fact Sheet about Mays Settlement (pdf)
Fact Sheet about Mays Settlement - Accessible Format (pdf)
Class Notice - English (pdf)
Class Notice - Spanish (pdf)
Significant Court Documents
Joint Status Report on Monitoring of Consent Decree during COVID-19 - 6/24/20
SETTLEMENT AGREEMENT: Face Coverings for Staff as Precaution Against COVID-19 Transmission in Sacramento County Jail - 6/18/20
Plaintiffs’ Motion Challenging Use of Solitary Confinement, Denial of Mental Health Care - 2/12/19 (pdf)
Order Granting Class Certification - 12/28/18 (pdf)
Disability Rights California Investigation Report (pdf)
Class Action Notice (pdf)
Class Action Notice - Spanish (pdf)
Sacramento County’s Expert Consultant Reports on Jail Conditions
Five individuals with disabilities have bravely shared their experiences in Sacramento County’s jails and agreed to represent the class of prisoners in this case seeking systemwide improvements.
Lorenzo Mays, diagnosed with significant mental illness and an intellectual disability, has been in Sacramento County Jail for eight years awaiting trial, having been repeatedly found incompetent to stand trial. Most of his days in jail are filled with the dangers and monotony of solitary confinement. Permitted just a few hours out of his cell per week, he has experienced auditory hallucinations, deepened depression, severe anxiety, and even suicidal thoughts. And he is not receiving meaningful mental health treatment.
Ricky Richardson lives with paraplegia and uses a wheelchair for mobility. When he arrived at Sacramento County Jail, Ricky was not permitted to shower for several days, as he was housed in a unit without a wheelchair-accessible shower. The jail would eventually place Ricky into a medical unit where the showers are larger. However, these showers are still dangerous for wheelchair users. Ricky tumbled out of an unstable shower chair onto the floor when he tried to use these showers for the first time. Without assistance, Ricky had to drag himself across the filthy shower floor. Now, he showers with his entire wheelchair to avoid another dehumanizing fall. Ricky experiences similar obstacles when he receives visits from his attorney, because there is no way to fit a wheelchair into the jail’s attorney-client visiting booth. But according to Ricky, among the most humiliating experiences is the restrictiveness of the medical unit. With no access to recreation or physical activity, Ricky has developed symptoms of diabetes and depression.
Jennifer Bothun arrived at Sacramento County Jail with advanced cataracts, a condition that can cause total blindness if not treated. She has not received adequate medical care for her needs. Jennifer is experiencing complete loss of vision in her right eye, dizziness, and constant pain. Jennifer also has significant mental health needs. She has spent several months in “Total Separation” solitary confinement at the jail while she waits for her trial. Her experience has been one long, grueling nightmare. “I won’t be the same person when I get out,” she said.
Leertese Beirge, diagnosed with serious mental illness, spent seven months in solitary confinement at Sacramento County Jail while he was waiting for a bed in a state hospital. With no human contact and virtually complete isolation, Leertese battled thoughts of self-harm on multiple occasions and eventually attempted suicide. When he has become suicidal, the jail placed Leertese in either a barren “safety cell” or an empty classroom. He has been stripped of his clothes and forced to sleep on the cold floor.
Armani Lee arrived at the Sacramento County Jail with a fractured pelvis and other significant injuries. It was difficult and painful for him to walk. The jail did not provide Armani with suitable accommodations, such as a wheelchair. He was “constantly dizzy,” and fell, tripped, and lost his balance on many occasions. Armani is also diagnosed with serious mental illness, including bipolar disorder with a history of suicide attempts. On one occasion, the jail placed Armani in disciplinary isolation where he was not permitted to leave his cell for weeks—not even to shower. The jail also placed magnetic flaps over his tiny cell window, increasing his isolation and sensory deprivation. Armani began to experience severe anxiety, depression, and suicidal thoughts.
- Settlement Approved in Sacramento County Jail Class Action to Ensure Better Treatment of People with Disabilities and Reform Solitary Confinement Practices – 1/14/20
- Settlement Reached in Sacramento County Regarding Jail Class Action – 6/20/19
- Civil Rights Groups Challenge Unconstitutional Use of Solitary Confinement, Denial of Mental Health Care in Sacramento County Jails - 02/12/19
- Prisoners file federal class action lawsuit against Sacramento County - 7/31/18
- Sacramento County Jails Stipulate to Requiring Masks for Guards - The Davis Vangaurd, 6/25/20
- Sheriff Scott Jones refuses to require deputies working in his jails to wear masks - The Appeal, 6/10/20
- California jail population plummets during pandemic. Could this lead to long-term change? - Sacramento Bee 05/27/20
- California jails use kinder approach to solitary confinement - Los Angeles Times 12/26/19
- Behind bars but free from copays - Sacramento News & Review - 10/24/19
- County failures, not state reforms, are killing people in California jails - The Appeal - 7/16/19
- Inmate advocates, Sacramento County settle lawsuit over ‘inhumane’ jail conditions - The Sacramento Bee - 6/21/19
- California’s jails are so bad some inmates beg to go to prison instead - 5/23/19 The Los Angeles Times
- $89M expansion set for Sacramento County jail. Here's why the need is called 'critical' - 4/26/19 The Sacramento Bee
- Who Begs To Go To Prison? California Jail Inmates - 4/23/19 The Marshall Project
- Here is what lawsuit claims is inhumane at Sacramento jail - The Sacramento Bee - 2/14/19
- ‘Punished for trying to kill myself’: Lawyers ask to halt solitary at Sacramento jail - The Sacramento Bee - 2/14/19
- Sacramento County Jail Lawsuit Ruled ‘Class Action’ by Federal Court - The Davis Vanguard 01/04/19
- Federal Judge Soon to Rule on Final Class Action Status of Sacramento County Jails Lawsuit - The Davis Vanguard 12/26/18
- Suicide cells - Sacramento News & Review 10/4/18
- ‘What happened to our brother?’ - Sacramento News & Review 8/30/18
- Sac Jails Slapped with Class Action Suit Charging Prisoners Subjected to ‘Inhumane and Degrading Conditions’ - The Davis Vanguard 8/1/18
- Inmate advocates sue Sacramento County over ‘dangerous, inhumane’ conditions inside jails - The Sacramento Bee 7/31/18