Murray v. County of Santa Barbara
On December 6, 2017, DRC and co-counsel filed a federal class action lawsuit on behalf of prisoners in the Santa Barbara County Jail, 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 jail fails to provide basic mental health and medical care, overuses and misuses solitary confinement, discriminates against people with disabilities, and provides inhumane, unsanitary, and unsafe living conditions. The lack of care and failure to meet minimum legal standards has led to unnecessary suffering and injury for prisoners with disabilities at the jail. The prisoners seek significant reforms to improve jail conditions to comply with constitutional and statutory standards.
Case Name: Murray et al. v. County of Santa Barbara et al.
Co-Counsel: King & Spalding (pro bono counsel) Prison Law Office
Significant Court Documents
Clay Murray is a 67 year old U.S. Army veteran with significant disabilities and medical conditions, including degenerative joint disease. He uses a wheelchair to get around. Mr. Murray has post-traumatic stress disorder and related mental health needs. While in custody at Santa Barbara County Jail, Mr. Murray has requested but received no meaningful treatment to help him manage his PTSD symptoms. Mr. Because he uses a wheelchair and is housed in the jail’s designated unit for prisoners with chronic medical conditions, he is not permitted to participate in work and self-improvement programs at the jail. He has also faced severe risks due to the lack of medical care. In one instance, he was denied his inhaler despite a significant respiratory condition. He went without treatment for an extended period, until another prisoner summoned medical help after finding Mr. Murray struggling to breathe on the ground below his bunk.
David Franco is 25 years old and has been diagnosed with schizophrenia and bipolar disorder. When he arrived he arrived at the Santa Barbara County Jail, Mr. Franco was denied prescribed psychiatric medications that he had been taken prior to his arrest for several days. His condition worsened, with staff documenting his reports that “I haven’t slept for like 4 days … I feel like my heart is going to explode … I need something for this anxiety – it’s making me crazy.” A few days later, Mr. Franco attempted suicide by cutting his wrist.
Shareen Winkle is 31 years old and has been diagnosed with mental illness, including bipolar disorder. The Santa Barbara County Jail has repeatedly placed Ms. Winkle in solitary confinement for long periods based on such infractions as not being prepared to exchange her bedsheets on laundry day and not wearing her shirt properly. Ms. Winkle’s mental health has deteriorated significantly during her extended stays in solitary confinement, where she has suffered multiple panic attacks.
Maria Tracy is 29 years old and has been diagnosed with schizophrenia and has a serious ophthalmological medical condition. During her booking at Santa Barbara County Jail, Ms. Tracy reported she had been to the hospital for an eye infection one week earlier and was receiving prescription eye drops. When the jail failed to continue the treatment, she submitted several requests for health care noting that the infection was getting worse, that the entire right side of her face was numb, and that she could not see out of her right eye. She ultimately needed to be readmitted to the hospital for four more days. Ms. Tracy fears that her eyes have suffered permanent damage based on the long break in treatment at the jail.
Eric Brown is 38 years old and has been diagnosed with chronic lower back pain, anxiety, and depression. Mr. Brown also uses a wheelchair to get around. Mr. Brown has been housed in inaccessible housing units at Santa Barbara County Jail. He has struggled to use the toilet, shower without pain, and get on and off the bus to go to court. Because the Santa Barbara County Jail is filled with barriers for people with mobility disabilities, Mr. Brown has been forced to hobble on his own through doors too narrow to fit his wheelchair.
- Inmate dies in Santa Barbara County Jail - Santa Maria Sun 01/16/19
- Class Certification Granted in Santa Barbara County Jail Lawsuit, Santa Maria Sun, 6/7/18
- Outside expert health care reports echo previous investigation into Santa Barbara County Jail conditions, Santa Maria Sun, 3/14/2018
- Damning Report Made on Santa Barbara County Jail, Santa Barbara Independent, 3/13/2018
- Scrutiny Increases After Inmate Dies in County Jail, Santa Barbara Independent, 3/5/2018
- Lawsuit seeks court-ordered reforms for treatment of inmates in Santa Barbara County Jail, Santa Maria Sun, 12/20/17
- Disabled Prisoners Sue Over Santa Barbara County Jail Conditions, Rewire, 12/19/17
- ‘Inhumane’ Conditions at Santa Barbara County Jail?, Santa Barbara Independent, 12/14/17
- Federal Class Action Lawsuit Seeks Santa Barbara County Jail Changes, Noozhawk, 12/11/17