Counties Facing Lawsuits Over Inadequate Medical Care for Jail Inmates
Several California counties are facing lawsuits over inadequate jail conditions amid state efforts to transfer certain inmates to local facilities, the AP/U-T San Diego reports (Thompson, AP/U-T San Diego, 3/19).
About six years ago, U.S. District Judge Thelton Henderson ruled that federal oversight of the state's prison health care system was neededÂ after determining that an average of one inmate per week died as a result of malpractice or neglect (California Healthline, 3/12).
To help curb prison overcrowding, Gov. Jerry Brown (D) developed a plan to send inmates convicted of lower-level crimes to county jails.
This fiscal year, counties will receive about $865 million to house more inmates under prison realignment efforts. That amount is expected to surpass $1 billion next fiscal year.
As of February, more than 1,100 inmates were serving sentences of five years or more in jails designed for stays of a year or less. The AP/U-T San Diego reports that the number is expected to grow in coming years.
Details of Lawsuits
Lawsuits against various counties allege that the conditions that prompted legal action against the state are now present in local jails, including:
- Poor medical and dental care;
- Inadequate mental health treatment; and
For example, Fresno County is being sued over allegations that its inmates routinely are denied treatment for mental or physical health conditions. In addition, a lawsuit against Riverside County alleges that inmates in local jails sometimes go months without seeing a physician and only receive cursory health exams when they do.
Brown and State Corrections Secretary Jeffrey Beard have acknowledged that county jails are housing more inmates under realignment efforts.However, Brown said, "People commit crimes in the local community, and they are now, to a greater degree, being supervised, being rehabilitated or being incarcerated locally" (AP/U-T San Diego, 3/19). This is part of the California Healthline Daily Edition, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.