Citing excessive costs and an unrealistic implementation schedule, Sacramento County has declined to settle a threatened lawsuit by the Prison Law Office (PLO) and Disability Rights California (DRC) regarding conditions and inmate services in the County’s main jail and Rio Consumnes Correctional Center.
Among the PLO’s demands are more out-of-cell time for certain inmates; additional services for inmates with mental health issues (approximately 40% of jail inmates at any particular time; and enhanced access to medical care for inmates, particularly those who under Realignment (the State-imposed shifting of prisoners from State Prisons to County Jails) are now incarcerated much longer, which in turn exposes the county to the added expense of treating chronic health issues.
Sacramento County, like all of California’s 58 counties, is adjusting to significant changes in its jail population resulting from State-mandated prison Realignment legislation. That legislation requires counties to handle prisoners for longer periods of time, many of whom have significant health and mental health issues.
Sacramento County decided it had to reject the remedial plans the DRC/PLO stipulated as part of the settlement because they are too burdensome and excessively expensive. Additionally, the DRC/PLO would not agree to a reasonable time-frame and required full implementation within just two years.
“This settlement proposal would require at least $50 million annually in operating costs with capital costs that could exceed $160 million,” said District 3 Supervisor and Board Chair Susan Peters. “Accepting these demands would require us to make drastic reductions in all of the services the County offers, which would have catastrophic consequences on the General Fund and a devastating effect countywide on our residents’ quality of life.”
The remedial plans sought by the PLO/DRC included a broad range of operational changes to the jails, along with a significant increase in inmate medical and mental health services. However, Sacramento County has already taken steps to address issues in its jails, including creating a new 20-bed Mental Health Intensive Outpatient Pod (IOP) and conducting the Adult Correctional System Review, designed to find ways to reduce the jails’ population through use of evidence-based alternatives to incarceration.
Spending an additional $50 million or more a year to operate County jails in the manner and under the timeframe demanded by the DRC and PLO would make it impossible for Sacramento County to maintain funding for important existing programs and initiatives including, but not limited to:
- Community mental health and alcohol and drug programs
- Sheriff’s patrol
- Parkways and Neighborhoods Clean Up and Safety Initiative
- Animal Care and Increasing the Live Release Rate
- Initiatives to Decrease Homelessness
“It is unfortunate that once again California County governments are being asked to solve the state’s correctional issues, said Peters. “State leaders – including legislators and the administration - must recognize all of Realignment’s impacts and provide the full funding necessary to responsibly shift the state’s prison population to County Jails.”