"Deplorable conditions" and inadequate mental health care have contributed to a significant increase in suicides at Los Angeles County jails, according to a U.S. Department of Justice report released Friday, AP/U-T San Diego reports (AP/U-T San Diego, 6/6).
A 2002 Memorandum of Agreement calls on DOJ to monitor the county's jails after federal officials found violations of prisoners' constitutional rights (Chang, "L.A. Now," Los Angeles Times, 6/6).
According to the report, the county Sheriff's Department has made some reforms to improve mental health care at the jails. However, the report noted that "serious systemic deficiencies" remain, in violation of the rights of inmates with mental illnesses.
The report noted that there have been fifteen inmate suicides in less than two-and-a-half years.
According to DOJ, there is inadequate mental health care and supervision to identify and prevent suicide among inmates. It added that "dimly lit, vermin-infested, noisy, unsanitary, cramped and crowded" conditions likely contributed to the suicides.
DOJ plans to seek another court-enforced agreement to ensure the county addresses the remaining issues (AP/U-T San Diego, 6/6).
Sheriff's Department Response
A statement from the Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department said, "We are disappointed that [the] report fails to fully recognize the additional progress made over the last year-and-a-half to improve mental health services," adding, "The report also mischaracterizes and significantly understates the incredible efforts made to improve our suicide prevention practices" ("L.A. Now," Los Angeles Times, 6/6).
The department said it would continue to work with DOJ to address the issues (AP/U-T San Diego, 6/6).