California’s Santa Barbara County Jail slammed in new report

jail cell bars and shadows
News from California

The Santa Barbara County Jail regularly confines people with disabilities in solitary confinement and denies them basic health care and Americans with Disabilities Act protections, Disability Rights California alleged in a scathing new report [PDF], released February 23.

During 2015, DRC conducted inspections of six county correctional facilities. The first of the reports was about Sacramento County Jail, and was released in October 2015.

In Santa Barbara, DRC investigators found “widespread overuse of prolonged isolation and segregation” of prisoners, often for as many as 22 to 24 hours a day. Many of these inmates have severe mental disabilities, even though the jails often lacked mental health professionals on-site.

“Suicidal prisoners are routinely held for days at a time in ‘safety cells,’ small windowless rooms the size of a closet, with no bed, toilet or source of water. Other jails hold suicidal prisoners in safety cells for only a few hours at a time,” DRC attorney Melinda Bird said in a news release. “The impact on prisoners can be devastating, and only contributes to their distress.”

DRC also found that the jail routinely fails to provide “any” group or individual therapy, or a “functioning behavior management program.” Necessary medications are often delayed, sometimes for weeks, and even months.

Multiple sections of the jail allegedly also fall short of Americans with Disabilities Act standards for architectural design and reasonable accommodation procedures. Since most inmates are housed in inaccessible bunk beds, DRC investigators found that inmates frequently are forced to sleep on the floor.

The south dorm of the main jail, home to the largest portion of prisoners with disabilities, contains inaccessible toilet and shower areas, the report states. DRC also found no evidence of an adequate ADA complaint system or ADA coordinator, although the county sheriff recently agreed to appoint one, according to the news release.

Disability Rights California and Disability Rights Washington, the publisher of Rooted in Rights, are the designated protection and advocacy agencies in California and Washington, respectively, and are members of the National Disability Rights Network.