Sacramento County Must Act Now to Significantly Reduce Its Jail Population and to Meet Its Legal and Constitutional Duties in the Treatment of People with Disabilities

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Sacramento County Must Act Now to Significantly Reduce Its Jail Population and to Meet Its Legal and Constitutional Duties in the Treatment of People with Disabilities

Clerk of the Board
700 H Street, Suite 2450
Sacramento, CA 95814

Re: Sacramento County Must Act Now to Significantly Reduce Its Jail Population and to Meet Its Legal and Constitutional Duties in the Treatment of People with Disabilities

[For: Sacramento County Board of Supervisors 12/7 Meeting Agenda Item # 2 (Report on Population Reduction Efforts and Request for Direction on Steps to Address Jail Facility Deficiencies for Mays Consent Decree Compliance)]

Disability Rights California (DRC), as the Protection and Advocacy system for the State of California, is committed to protecting the rights of all people with disabilities and to ensuring that people with disabilities can live and thrive in their community. More than seven (7) years ago, in 2015, Disability Rights California issued an investigative report on conditions in Sacramento County’s jails (the “Jail”). The report documented deeply harmful policies, practices, and conditions that adversely impact people in detention, and in particular people with serious mental health needs, medical conditions, and physical, sensory, and mental health disabilities. Our report detailed the Jail’s inadequate health care system, excessive use of solitary confinement, and extreme violations of disability antidiscrimination law. 

After years of advocacy, DRC and its co-counsel were able to resolve what became a class action lawsuit against Sacramento County, securing a detailed federal court Consent Decree to address the deficient and dangerous conditions in the Jail facilities. More information about the Mays v. County of Sacramento Consent Decree is available here, and relevant case documents are available here.

Today, although aspects of the Mays Consent Decree have been or are in the process of being implemented, Sacramento County’s Jail system remains both legally and constitutionally deficient. It is people with disabilities who remain most at risk of serious harm, including preventable suffering and death.

The Mays Consent Decree and subsequent court-entered remedial requirements make clear that a plan for meaningful jail population reduction is an urgent and necessary step towards successful implementation of the Consent Decree. DRC urges Sacramento County to follow through on and comply with its commitments and obligations to substantially reduce its Jail system capacity, and to support and fund alternatives to incarceration, including through expansion of community-based services and health centers for people with mental health and other disabilities. People do better when they receive the services that they need in the community, not in a jail.

It is long past time for Sacramento County to turn the page and move away from the needless and shockingly high rates of incarceration of people with disabilities. The County must have a clear implementation strategy for Jail population reduction, which includes investment in services that prevent avoidable pathways to incarceration. The County’s strategy must prioritize prevention, diversion, and racial equity, accounting for the fact that people of color are outrageously over-represented in the County’s Jail population. There must be clear and measurable goals that are regularly assessed through transparent public reporting.  

Sacramento County must also address the enormous physical plant deficiencies that prevent compliance with the Mays Consent Decree. The Consent Decree is explicit that existing physical plant deficiencies must be remedied. The court-appointed expert monitors have made clear that the lack of critically needed mental health and medical care treatment space “threatens delivery of care and Consent Decree compliance” and is the “most immediate concern” regarding the provision of treatment to our clients. No one can reasonably dispute that the Jail’s facilities are inadequate to provide essential medical and mental health care, to end the use of harmful solitary confinement, and to provide safe, accessible housing and program access for people with disabilities. While federal law gives Sacramento County discretion to decide how it will comply with its legal and constitutional obligations under the Mays Consent Decree, one thing should be clear: 

The time for action to implement foundational provisions of the Mays Consent Decree can wait no longer. Our clients can wait no longer. If the County fails to set a path for compliance with the Mays Consent Decree, DRC and its co-counsel are prepared to take all appropriate steps to ensure that our clients’ rights are protected. 


Christian Abasto
Legal Director

Jennifer Stark
Managing Attorney

Cc: Sacramento County Supervisors Serna, Kennedy, Desmond, Frost, and Nottoli; Sacramento County Counsel, Mays Class Co-Counsel