Under Proposed Settlement, Fresno County Prisoners Will No Longer Be Denied Adequate Health Care

Twenty-two page plan to improve jail conditions is filed
Press Release

Fresno, CA—Under a proposed settlement with Fresno County officials, prisoners in the Fresno County Jail will no longer be denied adequate health care.  The agreement, filed today in federal court in Fresno, would settle a class action lawsuit on behalf of all present and future prisoners in the county jail.

“We appreciate the county’s willingness to recognize and address the serious life-threatening problems in the jail, and we look forward to working with the sheriff during the compliance period,” said Kelly Knapp, staff attorney at the Prison Law Office, which filed the lawsuit with Cooley LLP, an international law firm headquartered in Palo Alto, California and Disability Rights California.   
 

“The settlement provides tangible improvements for individuals who would otherwise suffer from inadequate and, at times, non-existent medical and mental health care. The result is hugely impactful for this vulnerable group of people who have no ability to procure these critical services for themselves,” said Maureen Alger, pro bono partner at Cooley LLP.

“This is a tribute to the perseverance of people like plaintiff Quentin Hall, who was denied his prescribed medication when he was held in the jail in 2011,” said Melinda Bird, Disability Rights California’s Litigation Counsel.  “Mr. Hall vowed that he would fight to make sure that no one else had to endure what happened to him. Although he is no longer in the jail, others will benefit from his commitment to justice.”

The lawsuit alleged that conditions in the jail constituted cruel and unusual punishment because prisoners were denied adequate medical, dental and mental health care and were vulnerable to attack by other prisoners because of inadequate security. The lawsuit also alleged that prisoners with disabilities were not provided reasonable accommodations in violation of the Americans with Disabilities Act.
 

The settlement includes a 22-page remedial plan that describes the obligations that the Sheriff and Corizon Health, a private contractor, must take to improve conditions in the jail.  Among other things, the remedial plan provides that:

  • prisoners with chronic illnesses will receive necessary medications;
  • pregnant inmates will receive timely and appropriate prenatal care, postpartum care, counseling, and specialized obstetrical services when indicated;
  • suicidal prisoners will be given a risk assessment;
  • prisoners with serious mental illness in solitary confinement will be taken out of their cells for recreation a minimum of seven hours per week and mental health treatment will be offered three times per week;
  • prisoners with disabilities will be housed in the most integrated and appropriate housing possible, based on their disabilities; and
  • more than 100 additional correctional officers will be hired to reduce inmate-on-inmate violence.

The Consent Decree provides for a four-year compliance and monitoring period and an informal grievance process for any future disputes.

For more information about Disability Rights California, check out this website and Facebook and Twitter for additional developments.