The Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors has approved a settlement with the U.S. Department of Justice that addresses federal concerns about mental health services, suicide prevention and use-of-force issues in the County’s jails.
The settlement builds on the sweeping progress already achieved by the County in recent years to ensure that the thousands of inmates in its charge—many of them suffering mental illnesses—are treated humanely and in strict accordance with Constitutional mandates. Unprecedented levels of training, transparency and accountability are now built into the system.
The Department of Justice itself acknowledges in the settlement that “the County and the Sheriff have demonstrated a renewed commitment to reforming the Jails and…have made significant commitments to protect prisoners from abuse and excessive force by staff that further the Parties’ mutual interest.”
Nearly four years ago, the Board created the Citizens’ Commission on Jail Violence, a blue-ribbon panel that was directed to undertake an unflinching examination of alleged brutality by deputies in the jail. The commission’s landmark report recommended more than 60 reforms. All of them have been enacted, including the creation of the Office of Inspector General.
Earlier this year, the Board approved the creation of a Civilian Oversight Commission for the Sheriff’s Department to provide community members with a sustained voice and help restore public confidence in the department. In the weeks ahead, the Board will weigh a series of recent recommendations for the commission’s structure by a working group appointed by the Supervisors.
At the same time, the County has championed efforts to place more inmates with mental health issues in community settings, an effort led by District Attorney Jackie Lacey.
In all, during the past two fiscal years, the Board of Supervisors has allocated more than $200 million in new, ongoing annual funding for systemic reforms in the jail system and alternatives to custody.
The Board of Supervisors will continue to work closely with federal officials and with Sheriff Jim McDonnell, a former member of the Citizens’ Commission on Jail Violence who has made significant progress in championing and implementing reforms in the nation’s largest Sheriff’s Department.